If it weren’t obvious before it certainly is now. James Harden was suspended for kicking LeBron James. Yep, one game. He sits. In a corner. To think about what he’s done.

I’ve been a life long NBA fan. I watched in middles school when Jordan (not DeAndre, but the one with the money and the shoes) churned out history every single night. I remember Anthony Mason – god rest his soul – thundering through the paint. I remember Larry Johnson donning a flowered dress and crashing the boards as Grandma Johnson in the Cons commercial. (My first pair of signature shoes, loved those Cons.) I remember the Round Mound of Rebound himself, Sir Charles Barkley punish his opponents on the court night after glorious night. I’m talking about mid-90s rock’em-sock’em smash-mouth professional basketball. In some alternate universe this is still how the game is played – more street-ball less flop-and-whistle party.

I reminisce because today’s NBA isn’t yesterdays NBA. It’s clear to my eyes and hope its clear to yours very soon.

James Harden got suspended a game for kicking LeBron James. Frankly, that’s pretty harsh. I remember players going down swinging. I remember Reggie Miller taunting Spike Lee! What did he get? nothing. Nada. Just an excuse to talk more trash and become the most hated NBA Player in the New York Tri-State area EVER. Even more than Jordan. Not kidding. Next time you’re in New York. Ask a random dude wearing a Knicks jersey. I’m sure you’ll get a string of expletives interlaced with Reggie Miller’s name and some graphic scenarios along with hand gestures.

But I digress. Matt Barnes tweeted it best as it was reported in the La Times earlier this week.  Frankly, I feel his sentiment. Matt Barnes is a solid player. He’s a hard competitor. And frankly, I respect the guy. He is not a LeBron James, unfortunately. As such, he isn’t protected like a LeBron James. Yes, I said it. Hate me in Cleveland and hate me in South Beach. I don’t visit either of you often and don’t care what you shout at your computer screens right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Feel better?

How about now?

Either way you’re still there and I’m still here. And we’re moving on.

I remember the wars on the hardwood that evolved. You’d watch a Knicks game in the mid-90s BECAUSE you knew you’d see the late and great Anthony Mason go toe-to-toe against another guy that wasn’t going to back down. This was also long before the days of padded under clothing and the compression shirts with honeycombed elbow and hip pads we see today.

Here, this is LeBron James. Not getting fouled.
Here, this is LeBron James. Not getting fouled.

Big Game James Worthy wore goggles because of an eye injury he received while playing. Show me a player wearing protective eye wear today. That’s right. Players don’t. Because either the game has been corralled out of the hard plays or because the fingers don’t fly in the paint liek they used to.

Look, I’m not saying the game has softened. I’m agreeing with Matt Barnes. James Harden got a pass for kicking LeBron. Probably because he was James Harden. Put a sixth or seventh man off the end of the bench in and tell him to hard foul LeBron. Watch the guy get run out of the building.

The game has changed. Does this benefit daily fantasy play? Of course. It allows for predictability and more long-term play for players in the game. The sacrifice we witnessed is shielded a bit from the fans. We don’t see blood on the hardwood like we did in yesteryear.

Is that a good thing? I don’t know.

But what does it show? It also shows a morphing of the style of play. Gone are the streetball battles we saw in the mid-90s. Here to stay are shootouts and high-flying action we enjoy. I’m not saying either style of game was better or worse. What I am saying is, Matt Barnes was right. He’s get jail time if he kicked LeBron.

Till next time, keep it classy Cleveland and follow @deepdfspicks