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Nets coach Jason Kidd crossed a line; the NBA has to make sure this isn’t repeated

Watching rookie Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd buy himself an extra timeout with that “drop-the-soda-on-the-floor” trick raised two thoughts:

1. Why didn’t some NBA coach try this a long time ago?

2. In a sports world where a NASCAR driver spins out, looking to manipulate who gets into the Chase, is it any surprise an NBA coach would tell a player to bump into him to buy time to draw up a play?

The NBA fined Kidd $50,000 for this stunt. Frankly I didn’t think that was sufficient, not because I’m looking to bang on Kidd, but because this amounted to an “integrity of the game” issue. The league should have suspended Kidd for at least a game to send the message no coach better try this stuff again.

When NASCAR saw compelling proof that race teams were looking to manipulate who got into the Chase, the sport’s in-season playoff, it acted swiftly and decisively with sanctions and warnings. NASCAR sent the message that any driver not giving his best effort would be punished severely.

I generally perceive NASCAR as a wink-and-nod operation more interested in a good show than a clean conscience. So you’d think the NBA would be at least as concerned with what Kidd attempted, in trying to manipulate an outcome outside the rules.

It’s quite possible Kidd’s fine will be sufficient in sending the message you can’t repeat these shenanigans. But I thought what he did was so blatant (hilariously entertaining, as it was) that the NBA should have come down harder, particularly in a time when the league’s discipline czar, Rod Thorn, is docking coaches and players for using profanity in post-game interviews.

Using a bad word in front of a TV camera is bad manners. Dropping a soda to create a stoppage of play is bad business. Very different.

Five thoughts on the NBA and the Charlotte Bobcats:

• The gap in quality of play between the Western and Eastern conferences this season is absurd. Unless something dramatic changes – and it still could with the impact of injuries over the next five months – the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers should slide into the East Finals with no real challenge over the first two rounds. Meanwhile the West playoffs will be entertaining from the first game to the last.

• Bobcats rookie Cody Zeller needs to get a lot stronger over the summer. I’m not saying he fails to apply himself in the weight room, but right now he’s not strong enough to guard veteran NBA power forwards, and that’s undoubtedly a factor in his foul troubles.

• I thought Kobe Bryant’s contract extension with the Los Angles Lakers defined compromise. He takes a modest pay cut in return for more lucrative years. They get cost-certainty going forward and the marketing value of retaining an iconic player. What Bryant has done for the Lakers certainly created value reflected in the multi-billion cable deal the franchise signed with Time-Warner.

• I’m less surprised the Portland Trail Blazers are excelling so far this season than I am it took as long as it did. LaMarcus Aldridge is a tremendous talent and Damian Lillard is pretty much everything you’d want in a point guard.

• In what should be his second season in the NBA, former North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall will reportedly do a stint in the D-League as a street free agent. Marshall was the 13th pick in 2012. That says two things: 2012 was a terrible draft for point guards and NBA teams are much quicker to treat lottery picks as write-offs than they once were.