Team USA was shocked – shocked! – when Argentina point guard Facundo Campazzo turned Carmelo Anthony’s 3-point jump shot into a close-out cheap shot, hitting the New York Knicks’ shooter in the groin in the third quarter of the U.S. team’s 126-97 victory Monday at the 2012 London Olympics.
Frankly, the most shocking thing about the play and the furor it ignited in the moment and afterward was that Campazzo didn’t explain to reporters that he learned his technique by watching NBA global telecasts. Where better to learn some of the game’s dirtier tricks than from the those who not only have mastered them but elevated them to high art and, in some cases, deployed them all the way to Springfield, Mass.?
While Anthony briefly writhed on the floor, center Tyson Chandler, coach Mike Krzyzewski and others barked and glared at Campazzo and the Argentina team, including Suns forward Luis Scola. All of these guys, though, know their way around such cheap-shot maneuvers because those are prevalent, rampant even, in the league in which they play stateside. (Coach K? He had a guy who once stepped on a fallen player’s chest.)
Some of the greatest players in NBA history have been on the dark side of sainthood if an elbow here, a shove there or a slap where it really hurts could tilt defeat into triumph. Michael Jordan never met a rule he didn’t try to bend. Karl Malone and John Stockton were known to apply impact to opponents’ various nether regions, especially when cutting through the lane. And Tim Duncan and David Robinson were more than happy to win rings while teammate Bruce Bowen stepped repeatedly underneath descending shooters’ feet and ankles.
For every Reggie Evans, Metta World Peace or Raja Bell delivering a blow in today’s game — role players staying employed and effective by whatever means necessary, up to and including World Peace’s alarming elbow to OKC guard James Harden’s head — the NBA has a Kevin Garnett, a Dwight Howard or a Chris Paul, elite players who aren’t above such tactics. Or at least a strategically aimed rabbit punch away out of the refs’ sight. It was Paul, in fact, who was cited by Campazzo for triggering the ‘Melo play; the 21-year-old accused Paul of getting him with a similar low blow in the first half. And Paul didn’t exactly deny it when he blinked and said: “Which time? We got tangled up 1,000 times.”
During that same postgame media session, as the absentee landlord of this Hang Time hideout reported, Paul seemed to savor the feistiness.
“Anyone who is involved in athletics knows that there are these ups and downs over the course of a game,” Paul said. “I love it, I love it. When it got a little chippy here and there it gets you excited and it really lets you know you are on the Olympic stage playing for a gold medal … I give Argentina a lot of credit. They pushed us. They made us compete. And that’s what you want to do.”
There is, of course, another explanation. Campazzo might just be a Jeremy Lin fan who was letting Anthony know what he thought of the Knicks’ handling of their power struggle.