Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Way - Sports News

Phoenix Coach Rips Ruling

The NBA suspended Stoudemire and Diaw for Wednesday night's Game 5 of what's become an intense, rough Western Conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs.

The two violated an NBA rule by leaving the bench area after Robert Horry's flagrant foul on Steve Nash in the final seconds of Phoenix's 104-98 victory in Game 4, a win that tied the series at 2-2.

Horry was suspended for Game 5 and Friday night's Game 6.

Western culture reveres characters that 'break the rules' to get things done 'their way', replacing mindless authoritarianism with common sense. When it comes to professional sports - in this case, the NBA - common sense is generally ignored. I've seen the highlight several times now, and it's clear to me that what Horry did was the equivalent of a sucker punch. It was beyond flagrant - I'd call it a foul with the intent to injure. Let's say Nash is a little more off-balance when Horry hits him; then Steve might have smashed his head against the scorer's table. Horry can say what he wants about Nash over-dramatizing the hit, but when you don't see it coming, any reaction you have is completely instinctive. It's not like Steve thought in the half-second it took to hit the floor, "Hey, this is my chance to flail around like an Italian soccer player." So Horry only getting a two-game suspension is a gift compared to what he would have received if Nash had sustained a serious enough injury to miss one or more games.

But what really bothers me is that David Stern felt that he had no choice but to penalize the two Suns players who came off the bench. This betrays a stunning ignorance of how players relate to each other as people and as teammates. If I was in a bar with my brother, and while he was up getting a beer, some guy punches him in the head, what do you think I'm going to do? Sit on my ass because assault is against the law? Or am I going to tackle that bastard for hitting my brother? There's not even a conscious decision here; no thought is required. Somebody messes with my brother, they're messing with me. I'd be out of my seat in a heartbeat.

Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw see their brother knocked over like a bowling pin, and they're out of their seats in a heartbeat. They're not thinking about the rule that says they can't leave the bench, they're not thinking about anything except their brother is down, is Steve all right, and what the hell is going on here? I'm not suggesting they should have been allowed to tackle Robert Horry, but I'd rather have a player who stands up for his teammate than one who sits on his hands and doesn't want to get involved. It's harder for NBA players to stay on the bench in situations like this because there is no barrier between them and the court. Hockey players have the boards between them and the ice, so that helps to remind them in a keyed-up emotional situation that they have to stay where they are.

If I were commissioner, this would be my common-sense revision of the rule:

If a player leaves the bench area for any reason other than checking into the game or heading for the locker room, he is immediately ejected from the game. Any further punishment will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the commissioner.

The rule as it stands now is designed to eliminate the decision-making process. David Stern wants to be able to point to the rule and say, "See, that's the rule, so this is the punishment. Fnehh." The problem with a blanket rule is that it ignores context. Amare and Boris were upset that their teammate was thuggishly fouled, but they did not come into contact with any of the San Antonio players. The suspensions Stern gave out cost both the Spurs and the Suns two man-games, except that Stoudemire is the second-best player on his team, and one of the best players in the NBA, so you could reasonably argue that the Suns are losing 2.5 to 3 man-games in a tight playoff series, thus giving an unfair advantage to the team that instigated the situation in the first place.

What the NBA is telling everyone is that you can physically target the other team's best player, try to take him out in an unsportsmanlike fashion, and you'll come out ahead on the deal.

That's not common sense. That's just stupid.


Post a Comment

<< Home