Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sticking To the Rules? Since When?

I've been nose-deep in baseball lately, but came up for air to watch Game 5 in the Suns-Spurs Western Conference semi-final. Unless I went into sports talk radio and TV silence, I couldn't have avoided all the chatter about Robert Horry body-checking Steve Nash into the scorer's table, which brought two of Nash's Suns teammates up from the bench and onto the floor. I wasn't watching at the moment in question, so I had to depend on recaps and opinion.

But when I heard the names "Amare Stoudemire" and "Boris Diaw," the news was deflating. I can only imagine how a die-hard Phoenix Suns or NBA fan felt, either in the moment or afterwards. Because you knew what this meant: Leave the bench during an altercation, and you're getting suspended. It was meant to take the "bench-clearing" part out of brawls, which were a problem in what became a thuggish NBA, and in 1997, the enforcement of that rule cost the New York Knicks a playoff series against the Miami Heat.

Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, John Starks, and Larry Johnson all left the Knicks' bench after P.J. Brown tossed Charlie Ward to the floor. And the NBA came down hard. The only reason all four weren't suspended for the next game was because the Knicks had to field an actual team to play. So Ewing and Houston sat out Game 6, while Starks and Johnson couldn't play Game 7.

If that was the precedent, Stoudemire - even if he's Phoenix's best player and didn't actually engage anyone when he jumped up from the bench - had no chance of playing the next game. The rule and the penalty were clear, and have been so for 10 years. Does David Stern strike you as a guy who has a tolerance for the term "wiggle room" when it comes to handing out punishment?

So the Suns were essentially screwed going into last night's Game 6. They wouldn't just miss two players; they'd miss two of their best players. Meanwhile, the Spurs were short a role player who might take a big shot at the end of the game. The Suns ended up making it a much closer contest than you might have expected, which is a testament to their depth and their offensive system (which didn't have Stoudemire throughout much of last season). It's an overly simplistic way of looking at the final score, but when a team loses by three points and didn't have its leading scorer, I think you can safely say Stoudemire's suspension cost the Phoenix Suns the game - and possibly the series.

And I'm a day late on this, but the question of whether or not fair punishment was actually handed out in this instance is still causing a hell of a lot of noise. Yes, the NBA stuck to the rule, and maybe that's exactly what they should do. I heard Stern argue loudly and sarcastically with Dan Patrick on the radio, and saw him give weary, monosyllabic answers on "Pardon the Interruption" hours later. He bristled at the suggestion that Horry decided a seven-game series with a hip-check. And he stuck to his conviction that superstars don't get any favorable treatment when it comes to enforcing the rules.

Oh, really? Isn't this the same league that lets its superstars take four steps after picking up their dribble? How many of them are allowed to use their hand to push and check an opponent off balance to gain leverage on defense? How often can they hook a defender with an elbow (or an entire arm) as they pivot around a defender near the basket? How many of those star players get to cradle the basketball in their palm while stutter-stepping or switching hands while dribbling? How often is an offensive player allowed to just clear a defender out of the way with his arm?

Well, you might say, that's not the same thing. But isn't it really? You might be talking about preventing fights, about keeping the game clean, about making sure no one gets hurt. That other stuff, meanwhile, happens within the rhythm of the game. You can't call everything. It slows the game down.

But don't tell me superstar players don't get exceptions in the NBA. It happens all the time. And maybe this is one time, for the benefit of the game in general, that such an interpretation should've been made.



  • At May 17, 2007 1:57 PM, Blogger Kurt said…

    It's easy to see why a lot of basketball fans don't give the NBA a lot of credit. Personally, I love the NBA for the athleticism and dunks and layups, I like that it's not a jumpshooter's paradise like the college game has become. But sometimes along comes a controversy like this and you just have to shake your head at the whole darn thing.

    The Suns were handicapped unfairly, and the Spurs wear black for a reason.

    Of course, the true conspiracy theorists amongst us would have to wonder if maybe Stern wouldn't want the Suns and their fun style of play to advance further than the boring Spurs ...

  • At May 17, 2007 2:30 PM, Anonymous Manny said…


    On May 21, 2007 Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen will be having a private signing in Detroit.

    For more information visit:


    or email us with questions:


    OR contact Ted by phone @

    813-749-8560 ext. 22

  • At May 20, 2007 7:12 PM, Blogger imthesmartguyhere said…

    I've been writing about this subject on different people's blogs all day. The Suns really were cheated with that suspension. I'm not even a Suns fan and I could see that that suspension impacted the whole series



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home