Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Big Shot Rob…Strikes Again

Rather than by nailing a clutch 3-pointer to doom the fate of the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, Robert Horry struck a potentially more damaging blow by elbowing Steve Nash into the scorer’s table with 18 seconds to go in Game 4. [A game in which
Phoenix withstood everything San Antonio had and secured a pivotal road victory evening up the series at 2-2.]

Just imagine the size of the suspension if one of the NBA bad boys had done this to Nash.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

It should’ve left all of us eager viewers with an already stellar series, chippy or not, with three drama-packed games remaining and plenty of drama in the tank.

Instead, Horry’s elbow left a much more ominous fallout.

Amare Stoudemire, despite irrational pleas that he was checking in (not a chance, bro), and key backup Boris Diaw were both suspended for Game 5 on Tuesday evening.

Horry got 2 games himself. One for the elbow to Nash and one to loudmouth Raja Bell in a mini-altercation. Swift justice from the NBA as usual.

Nevermind that Horry started the entire thing. Even an idiot can tell that without Horry’s cheap shot, which he loaded up before delivering, nothing happens and no suspensions are needed. Now of course, this doesn’t mean anything that happens after a first incident doesn’t matter. But we’re not arguing such a simplistic ideal. This isn’t the time for a philosophical debate.

Instead, we have real-life video and real-life assessments that need to be made.

Mere seconds after it occurred, just about anyone who knows a thing about the NBA realized that after Stoudemire and Diaw left the bench, entering no more than 24 inches onto the court itself, the two young Sun playmakers had all but instantly drawn automatic suspensions from NBA resident sheriff Stu Jackson. There’s precedent written all over the books for this exact scenario which Jackson can easily fall back on too (hello Knick-fans and Patrick Ewing…thanks PJ Brown, by the way).

Unfortunately for the Suns, this leaves them sans Stoudemire and Diaw for Game 5, in a series in which they are tied 2-2 with home court advantage. Sure the Spurs lose Horry for Games 5 and 6, but they’d make the trade any day of the week. Grabbing the Suns leading scorer, rebounder, and impact player is plenty. Throwing in Diaw, Stoudemire’s immediate replacement, and a key bench performing (on a scale higher than Horry’s no less) is a king’s ransom.

Now let’s get the obvious out of the way: Amare and Diaw shouldn’t have left the bench. Period.

However, this speaks to two incredibly important questions:
1st) Did Amare or Boris have any direct contact or even eye contact with Horry or a Spur following the play? The answer is a definitive NO. Video tape clearly shows them almost instantly retreating from on the court; instead, it is other Phoenix players, specifically Raja Bell (to nobody’s surprise) who defended Nash on the court against Horry.
2nd) What is the need for clinging to a precedent which automatically suspends and leave no real room for appropriate discretion? Horry’s actions were deemed worthy of a 2-game suspension. Nevermind his malicious attempt to hurt Nash. I suppose if Nash had been bloodied again or perhaps had seriously injured himself (laying it on thick, ala Tony Parker in Game 1), then more games might’ve been tacked on.

And for those who question Nash's flying into the side of the scorer's table, check the stat sheet. Nash is 6’3 and 195 lbs. while Horry clocks in at just under 6-10 and 240 lbs. If you’ddoubt such a distortion, especially when Nash is running up-court trying to avoid being fouled...I’d be glad to deliver a forearm-shiver from my 250 lbs. frame to anyone at anytime for demonstration.

Earlier this season, Carmelo Anthony punches a player, in the face, and gets fifteen games. Why is Horry’s forearm-shiver, purposely meant to hurt Nash (frustration or not, an action like that means nothing else) barely worth 1/8th of that penalty?

This reeks of the rather wimpy penalty dished out to Ben Wallace, who instigated the Malice at the Palace, which put Ron Artest onto the bad-boy map now and forever.

Jackson briefly commented that Horry’s additional elbow to Raja Bell warranted another game. Is this meaning that Horry’s first shot to Nash was worthy of 1 game? Only 1? So if he had stepped on Nash aftewards and elbowed D'Antoni before exiting, would it have been only 4? Stu?

Honestly, I have to ask: how come Horry doesn’t, at the very least, receive a 3 game suspension? Even though one can only predict if the series will go 2 or 3 more games, why on earth should Horry be allowed to play another game in this series? Especially if it’s Game 7. While he didn’t force Stoudemire and Diaw off the bench directly, without his action…their reactions, tame if you ask most people, would've have even been fathomed.

That has to matter at least somewhat. Doesn’t it?

In fact, could you imagine the impact if he were to hit yet another memorable shot to doom another contender into pretender status? Anarchy and chaos would reign supreme in Phoenix.

In a side note: Steve Kerr, reporting on behalf of Yahoo! Sports, mentioned during an earlier incident in the game, that Spurs Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen briefly “left the bench” much in the same manner that Amare and Boris did. While I didn’t see said play described in the article, it seems to be long fogotten by now. At least from any meaningful NBA executive offices.

While Stu Jackson could’ve easily slapped Amare and Boris with major fines, and potentially lessened Horry’s suspension to a single game in return for not suspending the Suns-duo, it’s obvious he followed precedent without considering the circumstances fully.

If I'm Phoenix management, I take a page from the Warriors and print out t-shirts for all the fans to wear. I can see it now. It's a black and silver shirt that says DIRTY. And it has Horry's forearm to Nash on the back. Why not paint your crowd with the rival colors to prove a point? Sure you'd be fined. But it'd be worth it.

So the now Spurs head to Phoenix, tied 2-2, and see an opponent missing its two legitimate post-options. Good luck to Kurt Thomas, who might need to somehow play 48-minutes on Wednesday night. Remembering to not get into any foul trouble either in what should be an incredibly tightly-called game no less. Ditto for the likes of…wait, who else do the Suns have on their roster who can even attempt to post up with 2-time MVP Tim Duncan? Hmmm. Ironically, it appears Jalen Rose or even, ugh, Pat Burke may see their first playoff minutes. Either that or Shawn Marion better gain 35 lbs. overnight.

This entire ordeal, which is now officially even more befuddling than an episode of Lost, has left me asking a completely different question as I type: how little will this incident tarnish the image of Robert Horry?

While countless other players are seemingly never forgiven for even a minor transgression, it is barely known that Big Shot Rob once threw a towel in the face of his then head coach, in Phoenix, Danny Ainge. During a game. His punishment then? A trade to the Lakers and the opportunity to win more rings. Now, it seems he may be even a step closer to his seventh ring. What a warm story.

In the end, Horry’s actions only validated what Amare Stoudemire illuminated, criticism suddenly silent against him, earlier in the week. It was another dirty play from a dirty team.

See if you can find a pattern here.
Whether it’s been Bowen kneeing Nash in the groin, Bowen faking an injury from a supposed elbow down the court, Bowen kicking the achilles of Amare, or Tim Duncan whining about each and every call throughout the game…the once classy Spurs have the Suns right where they want them.

Thanks Robert for another series-changing shot.

Yes, even you commit a foul or two Timmy.
Credit: Sports Opinions Blog


Anonymous said...

I'll say let's all send our protests to NBA - www.nba.com. Horry got 2 games and Stoudemire and Diaw each got one. Even if you are only counting person/game this is an even draw. We all know who's at fault here. Even draw? Not to mention it is really not person/game as Horry's cheap shot takes away two of Sun's starters. If that's how basketball is to be played, all we need is more enforcers on the court. If Spurs win this series they win it dirty and in shame!

Chris Clement said...

I only wish David Stern realized how pathetic another Spurs/Pistons series will be.

Ratings will be in the toilets.

A lot of "purists" will say it's the best basketball matchup.

And you know what? They won't watch. Purists aren't always the best ticket in town as you need the fan watching that typically won't to boost meaningful ratings.

This isn't to say Stern should cheat or give the Suns the advantage.

Or is it????

Navid said...

If the NBA is gonna make a stupid call that will result in messing up the only series worth watching in the playoffs this year, they really do know how to mess up a good thing. I don't care what Stu Jackson's argument for not suspending Bowen and Duncan is, THEY WERE ON THE COURT! No one, with possibly the exception of Horry, should have been suspended, but if they're gonna suspend Amare and Diaw, at least live up to your own standards, stop being hypocrites, and suspend Bowen and Duncan as well. Finally, fire David Stern and Stu Jackson for the sake of the game, they are ruining the intensity that makes NBA basketball worth watching.

Chris Clement said...

Surprise surprise. Spurs win. Phoenix played as hard as it could, but it was still sans-Amare and Boris.

Go ahead and take away Duncan from the Spurs. Or even Parker.

Not to mention Finley.

Geez. Amazing that a guy as dirty and cheap as Bruce Bowen makes the shot no less. Lucky guy.

Stu Jackson and David Stern (who sounded like a spoiled know-it-all rich-kid on ESPN's Dan Patrick radio show) are both getting evil thoughts from me.

Cowards. Hide behind your flawed rules...when interpretation wouldn't damage a thing.

Paymon said...

By now, we have all established that the rule for leaving the bench is rigid and Stern realizes that. As he states, it's up to the owners to make the rule and his job for interpretation. The rule is clear and those players left during the altercation. Even when including the idea of intent, Amare wasn't just looking for a better view.

Get over it, Suns fans and Spurs haters. David Stern and Stu Jackson didn't score just 6 points in the last 5 minutes of last night's game. That wasn't Stern and Jackson who took ridiculous shots reminiscent of Starbury shot selection. Indeed, that was the "people's MVP" Steve Nash. The fact is, the Spurs make shots when they need to in big games at key junctures and the Suns do not, regardless of the squads available to them. If you disagree with me, look at Phoenix's playoff results against teams of equal or greater stature under D'Antoni.