Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spurring on a suspension

I wondered what all of you think of the controversy surrounding the suspension of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw in last night's Suns-Spurs game, which almost certainly affected the outcome of the game and maybe the series. I think the action taken by the league was horrible (no pun intended), unjust, but maybe correct nonetheless.

Part of the issue involes the interpretation of the rulebook and what constitutes an altercation. Is every flagrant-2 foul an altercation? Where is the vicinity of the bench, where the players are supposed to stay?

My suspicion is the Horry planned his shot at Nash to provoke some of the better Suns players to get themselves suspended. At least that seems to me what the preponderance of the evidence would suggest. The guy is not an out-of-control frustrated rookie. I don't know of any reason why this wasn't an attempt to provoke a suspension and help his team underhandedly. If this were provable, then Horry should be banned from the NBA for life. Unfortunately, I think you would have to prove that beyond reasonable doubt to warrant that kind of action, and you can't.

The actions of Stoudemire and Diaw are not anywhere near half as reprehensible as those of Horry, even on the most charitable construal of his actions. Nonetheless, I can understand why the league was reluctant to set aside a rule designed to prevent the kind of bench-clearing altercation that took place between Indiana and Detroit a couple of years ago. They feared, and not without reason, that any softness on the issue of leaving the bench might result in an Indiana-Detroit -style altercation either in this series or in a future series involving physical teams.

On the charge of San Antonio being a dirty team, Amare was unwise to make the charge, and tainted the whole team with the conduct of only a few of its players. I have never heard of Tim Duncan or Tony Parker being dirty. I see no good reason to believe that they are coached to play dirty. And what is a dirty hit is often in the eye of the beholder. And, what is more, he embroiled his team in a media circus which must have distracted him and his team from basketball.

I could be a speaking as a biased Suns fan, but I have a sense that this year's NBA champions will come out of this series. It would be unfortunate if the Spurs were to win the series because one player on their team cheated.


Johnny-Dee said...

Victor, as you probably know, I'm a diehard Spurs fan. Now, I don't have cable television, but I've been trying to follow all of this controversy from the internet. I would be surprised if "Big shot Rob" intentionally planned a stunt to setup the suspension of the Suns players. I might be convinced if I watched the game and saw Horry taunting the Suns players and calculating the exact timing of when to go after Nash. Horry has always been an honorable player, so this kind of stunt would seem way out of his typical style. Still, people do strange things during the playoffs.

I think you are right to say that whoever wins this series is most likely going to be this year's NBA champs. I thought it was a real shame that Dallas fizzled out against Golden State because it makes the next round in the Western playoffs anti-climactic.

I don't like these suspensions in the playoffs (even though they might be necessary) because no matter who wins the series, there is always a sense that the victory is somewhat hollow since key players were suspended.

Victor Reppert said...

Hello Johnny! I had thought of engaging in a little cross-blog ribbing with you about this but didn't do it. And since it got unfortunately ugly I am glad. This is a critical matchup coming to early because of Disappearing Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks.

Aesthetically this should go seven, but the Spurs would be well advised to finish us off tonight if they can. The Suns play their best games in game 7s.

Johnny-Dee said...

I found this article where Horry addresses your theory concerning his intentional plotting to get Suns players suspended. "If I was that smart," he said, "I'd be in Vegas right now gambling."

Anonymous said...


I'm a good friend of Johnny, and like Johnny, I'm a philosopher from San Antonio. Hence, a Spurs fan as well. So when he told me about your post, I had to come check it out. I have a couple thoughts.

I have a friend digitally recording the games for me, so I can pause and watch parts of the game in slo-mo. I heard all the horrific aftermath stories about the "Cheap Shot Rob" play before I actually watched the game, so I was prepared for the worst. When I first watched the play, I thought to myself, "Wow, that was a hard foul, but not nearly as bad as the media has portrayed it."

But now, after watching the play again tonight---in slo-mo, from different angles---I've come to an even more shocking conclusion: Nash flopped. I know, I know: you're thinking it's just Spurs-fan-bias. All I can say in response is to find someone who recorded it and watch. Nash sees Horry, accelerates, leans into Horry to ensure contact (really!), takes the bump (which admittedly was a foul), jumps into the padded scorer's table for maximum effect, and then throws his arms and head back onto the ground to seal the deal. I'm not making this up. My only evidence, my only defense, is the video. Just watch.

This doesn't change my perception of Nash one bit---he's a wonderful player, one of the best point guards I've ever seen in my life, and certainly one of the best things about the league right now. (And as you know, the Spurs have more than their fair share of floppers.)

But once you see that it was a flop--and it really was--it completely changes the way you look at this series. It wasn't a maniacal, calculating Horry, or even a hot-tempered Horry, that instigated the Diaw-Stoudemire suspensions. It was Nash over-selling a foul.

Thanks for the interesting read. I do hope one day the Suns can get over the hump, as I know what it feels like to suffer continuous playoff losses. When they finally hoist that first trophy, it will be worth the wait.

Best wishes in your future NBA fandom and philosophical endeavors,


Victor Reppert said...

It's hard for anyone to look at that in an unbiased way. I suspect that the "stay on the bench" rule needs a certain amount of tweaking.

As it happened, I was preparing an online course on ethics on the day the suspension game took place, and I was thinking about the role of punishment, and the idea that punishment should try to guaranttee that one not profit from one's wrong actions. I don't think you can deny that this was a suspension-worthy hard foul on Horry's part. Also, probably if this were an attempt to get someone suspended it would probably be targeted at Raja Bell rather than the two players on the bench.

In any event you should know that it is my policy to root for the teams that beat the Suns in subsequent rounds (if you beat Phoenix, then no one should beat you), and I will not change this because of the acrimony involved.

The three leading teams in the Western Conference are so close in strength that it takes very little to swing a series between them. After the Suns got to the finals they faced premature critical matchups twice against Houston and lost both times after taking two-game leads, and Horry was a major figure for the Rockets then. They they traded Charles Barkley for several Rockets including Horry, but Horry and coach Danny Ainge didn't get along, and Horry was traded.

Blue Devil Knight said...

It wasn't fair, but it was just that the two got suspended. They broke the rule, and it needs to be applied consistently. It is meant precisely for moments like that, when things get heated, and they failed to control themselves. Even if they didn't get in any scuffle, they added to the confusion by running onto the court away from the bench, adding to the number of people that had to be held back.

It was awful, and I really wanted the Suns to win. But just.