The 2007 NBA Playoffs have forced almost daily updates to my "Dead To Me" list. Here's the current listing:

10. Reed Richards and Tony Stark
9. Seventeen-year cicadas
8. People who misuse ellipsis points
7. I-290 East (prior to the Austin Blvd. exit)
6. Hugh Jackman
5. Linear algebra
4. Kobe Bryant*
3. StubHub
2. Stu Jackson
1. San Antonio Spurs

*This is the first time Kobe's been out of the top 3 since the fall of 2001.

So...what have the NBA playoffs taught us so far? That it's okay to sweep a leg (Bruce Bowen), knee an opponent in the frigamajig (Bowen again), mash somebody's face with an elbow (Baron Davis), and clothesline a guy nearly to death (Jason Richardson) -- none of those plays resulted in a suspension (and lest anyone forget, Kobe Bryant got suspended this season, twice, for doing less). It is not okay, however, to step over a painted line after somebody shoulder-tackles your two-time MVP teammate into the scorer's table. Way to maintain order, David Stern!

This is a textbook example of traveshamockery. A roleplayer from one team thugs the best player on the opposing team, and the team that gets punished is the one that was victimized in the first place. NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson had the audacity to say, ""It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness."

Really, Stu? Is that right?

Here's what I want to know. How is the "can't leave the bench" edict the only true zero tolerance rule in the NBA? Everything other rule is open to some manner of interpretation. If a player charges into the stands after an abusive fan, he might get suspended 11 games (Vernon Maxwell), 73 games (Ron Artest), or only 1 game (Antonio Davis). If a player punches somebody, he might get suspended for five games, or he might get 25. Every situation is unique and must therefore be judged on its own merit. I mean, referees are forced to make judgement calls all the time on what consitutes a hand-check, a travelling violation, a charge, a flagrant foul, and so on. Why can't there be a judgement call in this type of situation? There's also supposed to be a zero tolerance policy for post-whistle complaining, but players bitch and moan about fouls (and non-fouls) all the time. The fact is, NBA officials have always been able to pick and choose how and when they enforce the rules.

But that's all beside the point. "Zero tolerance" rules are designed by people in positions of power who want to absolve themselves of the need to use logic or wisdom. They can always fall back on this excuse to disarm their critics. The granddaddy of all zero tolerance rules is that the referee is always right, but when Joey Crawford threw Tim Duncan out of a game for laughing at his calls from the bench, the league decided that Crawford needed to be punished for his behavior. Apologists for the NBA can say that Crawford was punished because he asked if Duncan wanted to fight, but asking "Do you want to fight?" is the lamest of aggressive things ever said on a basketball court, even by officials. Crawford was punished because, against all reason, he chose to eject one of a team's critical players during one of the league's critical matchups. And now the NBA is doing the exact same thing.

This is not a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation for the NBA. The following would be a completely legitimate statement by Commissioner Stern regarding this incident:

"In light of the fact that there were no punches thrown and that this incident began as a result of aggressive action taken by the Spurs, I consider it more prudent to follow the spirit of the law. Following the letter of the law in this case would create a very high incentive for teams to send thugs onto the floor to fight in an effort to get opposing benches suspended. I cannot in good conscience allow such a precedent by rewarding bad behavior. In a related story, Robert Horry has been suspended for the next Spurs/Suns game."

That didn't happen though, and it won't. And in the meantime, the Spurs have become the new Bad Boys. They've very quietly played rough and dirty for years, to the point where their behavior is now an irrevocable part of the institution. Trying to combat their tactics is like trying to stop a tank by blowing on it with a straw. You can't talk about it without being labeled a whiner, you can't react without being punished, and you can't count on the league to protect you.

You know what I'd like to see? Retribution. If I was coach Mike D'Antoni, I'd send Pat Burke into the game and instruct him to guard Duncan. I'd tell Burke to do his best Bill Laimbeer impersonation and pull every dirty trick in the book. I'd have him grab, hold, and trip. I'd tell him to step on Duncan's feet and undercut him at every opportunity. Then I'd tell him to deliver five of the hardest possible fouls whenever it looked like Duncan might shoot the ball. Then, for foul number six, I'd order Burke to level Duncan. Just drop him to the floor. Let's see whether any of the Spurs lose their cool and jump off the bench. I'm sure the Phoenix players would be more than happy to donate the money needed to pay Burke's fines.

Would that be a petty, rotten, dirty thing to do? Maybe. But it's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness.

[Many thanks to Evil Ted for his contributions.]

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Blogger Christian Angelo said...
Well Frigging Said! You have just voiced every sentiment of every basketball fan around the world. C

Blogger Jesse said...
On a totally unrelated, and apparently obscure note, azcentral is reporting the following story:

The Phoenix Suns announced today that they had signed Scottsdale resident Mike Tyson to a 10 day contract.

Says Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, "His ball handling is a bit weak, but I think you'll find his defensive abilities on Duncan... striking."

When asked for his thoughts Tyson said, "I'm just biting at the chance to get out there and show the world what I can do again"


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Perfect article, could not have said it any better.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well said. I cannot even remotely comprehend what is going through the head of these idiot league officials. Stu Jackson you are a Moron and David Stern you are a hypocritical coward.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Spurs went from being too soft (2000-2002) when being pushed around by Shaq and his Lakers.

Then they were too boring (2003-2006) when winning their titles and subjecting viewers to defensive basketball.

Now they are dirty and thugs?!?!

We get it. No one likes the Spurs. Everyone wants to see Nash and the run-and-gun Suns win the title. But it sounds ridiculous that the reasons for not liking the Spurs just changes from year to year.

Blogger Hersey said...
Love the argument. This game will be memorable.

Blogger Ben said...
Long time reader.
First time commenter.
Love your work.
Love the Suns.
Hate Kobe.
Keep up the good work.

This series is messed up.
I liked the way you summed everything up.

But you know what? I still believe the Suns are gonna pull this one out.
Because sadly, as much as David Stern likes to play god, the refs do too. I have a feeling that the calls are not gonna go spurs' way tonight. All will be well again as we will take game 5. Its up to the zebras to balance the game out. And the dirty spurs will get what they deserve, huge slap to the face when they lose this series.

I don't understand why people are talking as if this series is over, or Spurs have this thing in the bag. The suns are clearly the better team. Lets examine

Game 1 : Both team played well. Suns lost Nash on key possessions late due to bad luck. I'll call this game a tie.

Game 2 : Suns played well, Spurs played bad. Huge blowout.

Game 3 : Suns played horrible, Spurs played well. Win for Spurs. Spurs needed a huge game from Duncan and Manu (Who's been sucking this whole post season). One of the WORST shooting nights of Nash's career. Ridiculous calls going against the suns, some key Finley 3s. and Amare foul trouble to narrowly win this game. Suns had a shot till almost the very end.

Game 4 : Both team played well. Suns win by captializing on Spur's 4th quarter collapse. (Granted a little of the ref's help on this one, they must have been feeling guilty for screwing them in game 3)

From my point of view, if it weren't because of bad bounces and headbutts, the series would already be over.

Predictions: 15 Points from Jalen Rose in game 5 , Suns in 7.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
jesse -- At this point, even that wouldn't surprise me. Although it certainly would entertain me.

ben -- You hate Kobe?! Well, by golly, you're always welcome here. Like you, I think the Suns can still win it, even though tonight's going to be one helluva test for them. If they can coax even 10 points from Jalen Rose, they should be okay. Speaking of which, do you think Jalen even knows where his jersey is? I don't think he's bothered putting it on since January.

Anonymous Squirrel said...
Amen, brother! Pure genious...

Anonymous Chase said...
Thank you for saying something about Baron Davis elbow to FIshers head. It has been incredibly overlooked by the NBA and the Media just because BD has been the hump target of everyone during the playoffs. That was just as or more dirty than Horrys play. How he did not get suspended for the play alone is beyond me, besides the fact that 5 techs and a Flagarant 2 warrants a suspension no?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Would it have been too hard to just fine Amare and Boris $100k each and suspend Horry for a game or two? Come ON.