While tossing a few barbs in the direction of Miami’s James Posey (“he mostly hits guys from behind, so it’s not like he has toughened up. More likely he has watched Bill Laimbeer tapes,”), the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith wonders what happened to the NBA’s old style of physical play.

The fact is, there aren’t many dirty players in the NBA anymore because it’s too costly to be dirty.

Heck, guys used to be proud of being dirty players. The Pistons’ Laimbeer especially, though he was the face of NBA evil and well beyond being respectably dirty, like Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland, known as McFilthy and McNasty when they played for the Washington Bullets and opponents finished layups on their back.

Old school, they called it then, and there was a difference, as in all sports today. Players weren’t as big and strong, and they didn’t work out like they do now, so the collisions weren’t as violent. Take a look at some of the old game films. Even most of the strong guys were skinny by today’s standards.

But the money became obscene, at least to us, and image became a concern to the NBA, so draconian measures were put in place. Hit someone, fight, you could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and your career.

So no one is truly that Laimbeer-dirty anymore.

There was a transition to this era through Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Oakley, some of the names you heard players complain about most often in the 1990s. Pat Riley, the current Heat coach, also came in for some blame”he had Oakley, John Starks and Anthony Mason wreaking havoc in New York. Many say Riley’s demands create an atmosphere for such mayhem and cite Posey, though I disagree. It’s like blaming Chuck Daly for the Bad Boys.

Or Gregg Popovich for Bruce Bowen. Bowen generally pops up on today’s dirty list after an early-season debate with Isiah Thomas and previous episodes with Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton. Lakers coach Phil Jackson agreed, though Bowen always seemed to me more like Stockton.

Kobe Bryant’s 58 points in a triple OT loss to Charlotte Friday night might’ve caught your eye, but the New York Post’s Peter Vescey is quick to remind that whoever Kobe’s supposed to be guarding might be putting up gaudy numbers, too.

Gilbert Arenas scorched him up for the majority of his 60. Michael Redd scalded him for 45, Dwyane Wade fricasseed him for 40. Vince Carter barbecued him for 31 in three quarters before Maurice Evans came to his rescue. And Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll (career high 27) combined to pan-sear him for 55.

I know, I know, Kobe’s surgically-repaired knee restricts his mobility, especially lateral movement. Then again, it didn’t seem to inhibit him from uncorking 45 field-goal attempts.

Jay Williams’ brief tenure with the D-League’s Austin Toros has come to an end.  Williams was waived yesterday as Austin picked up BC’s Troy Bell (above), the 16th overall pick in the ’03 NBA Draft, and a guard whose resume includes cups of coffee with the Grizzlies and Hornets.