Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Suspend the Spurs Too

I don’t like to put a lot of sports related information up on this forum because I know that it bores a significant portion of my readership. However, I feel compelled to express a bit of outrage over the events following Game 4 of the Suns-Spurs series (NBA for the anti-sports crowd).

The details: At the end of Game 4, Robert Horry (Spurs) leveled two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash (Suns) in a clearly vindictive and reckless foul. That started a bit of a skirmish that went nowhere and was essentially little more than harsh words and an after-the-fact elbow.

However, during this little mini-skirmish, two Suns players (Amare Stoudemire and the Frenchman) walked onto the floor something that is prohibited and carries a punishment of a 1-game suspension.

On that basis, the NBA suspended two Suns players for Game 5, a decision that essentially gives Game 5 to the Spurs as Stoudemire is Phoenix’s best player.

The analysis: This is a terrible decision by the NBA for two reasons. First, both Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen (Spurs) left the bench and came onto the court in the 2nd Quarter after an altercation between a Sun and a Spur. If the NBA is going to suspend the Sun, they got to suspend the Spurs. Now, the NBA answered this issue by stating that the rule states that players have to enter the court in the midst of an altercation (rough quote). In their view, the incident in the 2nd Quarter didn’t constitute an “altercation” and thus the rule shouldn’t have been invoked.

This makes some sense although it is a highly subjective interpretation of events. Who is to say that their intrusion on to the court wouldn’t have escalated the “confrontation”? And if what was occurring on the court at the time wasn’t an “altercation”, then why did Duncan and Bowen both walk onto the court in defense of their man? Were they only concerned with the health of their teammate?

Consider the end of the 4th Quarter situation. The NBA has already established, by not suspending Duncan and Bowen and with the above explanation, that there is some margin for interpreting the rule. It’s essentially a hard rule in terms of suspension, but relatively flexible, at least on the issue of “altercation”.

What I don’t understand and think can’t be reconciled is that it’s equally possible the Suns got off their bench and walked onto the court to see if their PG (and Stoudemire’s best friend on the team) was ok. They never got near the actual “altercation” nor did that altercation escalate past the guys still on the court. Frankly it’s difficult to tell from the video if they ever actually walked onto the actual “court” as they walked clearly in the direction of Nash who was not actually on the court – he was body slammed into the scorer’s table and was technically next to the court.

At any rate, no matter the interpretation of the actual events, the NBA´s position is indefensible given that Duncan and Bowen were not suspended. Moreover, if the purpose of the rule is to prevent the escalation of altercations on the court, then this punishment doesn’t fit the crime. It doesn’t come anywhere close to the Knicks-Heat brawl in the 90´s. Indeed, it wasn’t even a brawl. It was a bush league move by a dirty player which incited the other team to get off the bench and go to investigate. There was never a point at which anyone thought that there would be a brawl. There was never a risk of escalation. The situation was completely under control.

Ultimately, the current interpretation of the rule is punishing the team that has played clean basketball while rewarding the dirty gang that have been pushing, pulling, kneeing, and body slamming their way through the playoffs. That’s not right. An organization that legitimizes that type of activity is going to lose interest and suffer the consequences. I watch the NBA because I love basketball. I don’t want to see a dirty ass thug like Bruce Bowen out there hurting people because it’s the only way he knows how to play defense. And I don’t think a non-escalating altercation in which two players walked onto the “court” and came nowhere near the altercation deserve to be suspended. At least not unless you suspend the Spurs guys as well.



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