20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on the Horry/Stoudemire/Diaw Suspensions

Predictably, the NBA suspended Robert Horry for two games and Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw one game each in the aftermath of the ugly finish to Game Four of the Spurs-Suns series. Reasoned discourse on this subject is very difficult to find because virtually everyone who is discussing the issue has a horse in the race or an ax to grind (pardon the mixed metaphors). The first, most important thing to consider is the first word of the first sentence of this post: "predictably." Right after Horry delivered his cheap shot to Steve Nash, Stoudemire and Diaw left the Suns' bench and anyone who knows anything about the NBA knew exactly what would happen next, namely that Horry, Stoudemire and Diaw would be suspended. The NBA's official explanation is that Horry got one game for the foul on Nash and a second game for throwing a high elbow at Raja Bell. Stoudemire and Diaw received the automatic suspensions that any player gets for leaving the vicinity of the bench when an altercation occurs. This rule is well known and has been strictly enforced before, including during an even more bitter and contentious series in 1997 between Miami and New York. Instead of being angry at the NBA for doing something that is quite predictable, fans should be angry and disgusted at Stoudemire and Diaw for losing their heads at a very critical moment. Again, let me emphasize: everybody knows this rule, it has been enforced strictly in previous playoff series--and no one else from either team violated it. Let's break down some things that have been said about this situation.

It has been suggested that since Horry instigated the incident the Suns should not suffer the bulk of the punishment. Horry was immediately ejected and later suspended two games for what he did; he did not "get away" with anything. If Stoudemire and Diaw had stayed seated then they would be playing in Games Five and Six while Horry would not: advantage Suns in that instance.

Others have stated that the rule regarding leaving the vicinity of the bench is a bad rule that should be changed. The rule is designed to prevent escalation of on court altercations. In the heat of the moment, no one knows if someone who is rushing into the fray is a peacemaker or not. Rudy Tomjanovich was almost killed by a Kermit Washington punch when Tomjanovich tried to be a peacemaker in an NBA fight three decades ago. This rule has played a big part in curbing on court violence in the NBA, as have rules regarding flagrant fouls and the automatic ejection that occurs if a player throws a punch, even if the punch does not connect. By making this a hard and fast rule, the NBA has tried to get rid of the whole macho ethic that made players feel like they had to run on to the court to avoid looking like wimps. Everyone knows that running on to the court leads to a suspension, so most players have enough sense to not do it. It is easier to defuse a situation with just 10 players, three officials and some coaches than it would be to defuse a situation that includes an additional 14 players.

I have no sympathy for Horry, Stoudemire or Diaw, just like I had no sympathy for Carmelo Anthony and everybody else involved in the Knicks-Nuggets incident in December 2006. The NBA's rules about fighting, about escalating a situation and about leaving the bench are very clear. As Commissioner Stern has said, any player who is not able to abide by the rules will have to find another line of work. If the Suns really believe that Horry did this intentionally to start a fight or get some of their players suspended then they were pretty foolish to allow that to happen. All they had to do was remain calm--as Nash did, for the most part--and Horry would have been the only player who was suspended.

Game Five is actually a great opportunity for two-time MVP Nash. Some people compare him to Magic Johnson--which is patently absurd. In Game Six of the 1980 NBA Finals, the Lakers were without the services of regular season MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who suffered a sprained ankle in Game Five (not a migraine, as Dan Patrick incorrectly said this weekend during ESPN's NBA coverage). Johnson responded by producing 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers won the game and the title. He received the Finals MVP for his efforts; Magic was a 20 year old rookie at the time. Nash won the second of his two MVPs largely because of how well the Suns did in the regular season even though Amare Stoudemire missed all but three games. Of course, the Suns did not win the title and have yet to make a Finals appearance with Nash at the helm. Game Five is a golden opportunity for Nash to outduel Tim Duncan, who in addition to also being a two-time MVP is a three-time Finals MVP. If Nash really is the best player in the game then this would be a good time to show it. Regardless of what happens, I know two things: Nash will play well and if the Suns lose he will make fewer excuses for himself and his team than his many supporters will.

posted by David Friedman @ 8:24 AM



At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:00:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Some Suns fans are contending that Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen left the bench in second quarter when Francisco Elson hit the floor after being tangled with James Jones, and should therefore be suspended:


I think it's clear from the clip that there was no altercation, and it seems like Duncan was probably just looking to see if Elson was ok.

I wish no one was suspended so we won't have to hear any excuses.

I respect what the NBA is trying to do as far as clean things up, but I think it may be having a bit of a side effect. I think some players have been trying to exploit the fact that the NBA has become so quick to hand out technicals, flagrant fouls, ejections, and suspensions. They have taken flopping to a new level, trying to make fouls (and even non-fouls) look much worse than they actually are in hopes of getting opponents slapped with one of the aforementioned punishments. Of course there's no way to be sure but I think any of the following could be examples of what I'm talking about:

-Baron Davis somehow getting thrown to the ground by Jason Terry in the first round

-Steve Nash flailing his arms after being fouled by Robert Horry as if he's part of an old Kung-Fu movie

-Baron Davis getting thrown around several times during Game 5 vs. Utah by various players, including a collision with Derek Fisher where he remained face-down on the floor for a long time

There are other instances I know I've seen but can't exactly recall right now. It is possible that there was no acting in any of those cases. But just as with offensive fouls, if you see enough of them, someone is probably acting on one of them.

The amount of flopping taking place today is just disgusting. During the Jazz-Warriors game, it seemed like someone was falling down on every posession. How is it that players didn't fall down so easily 10-15 years ago? If Wilt Chamberlain or George Gervin were playing today, their arms would send someone flying to the floor every time they'd attempt a finger roll. Someone would get knocked into the stands by Kareem's left hand every time he attempted a sky-hook. Flopping has sadly become the main defensive tactic today, and I think it is only a matter of time before people try to take it to the next level and sell flagrant fouls.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 11:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your Blog and feel it is extremely well written and thoughtful. I'll certainly make an effort to come back frequently.

As for this particular post... I can understand your reasoning. Rules are rules, and these particular rules were put in place to stop the escalation of confrontations, which they clearly do well.

However, I find it odd that Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen walked on the court in the second quarter when Francisco Elson and James Jones got tangled up, yet no suspensions were handed out. How can this "No Exceptions" rule be ignored one moment, and then applied so absolutely the next?

Both situations started in a similar manner. Both situations had star players walking onto the court right after hard contact. The only difference was that Horry and Bell suddenly threw a few pushes and forearms at one another before being broken up. But that was AFTER Amare and Boris had already taken their few steps onto the court.

So am I to believe there is any difference in the two situations? Where exactly is the line between a situation and an actual altercation? What is the definition of an "altercation?" Wouldn't hard contact and sudden heated verbal debate actually constitute as the beginning of an altercation? After all, it has to start somewhere. And if that is the case, wouldn't Duncan and Bowens presence on the court therefore be subjected to the same "No Exceptions" rule?

I agree that the rule is a very important one. But it must be applied wholly and absolutely in ALL situations if it is to remain a "No Exceptions" policy. No benched player should be allowed to step foot on the court regardless of altercation, heated debate, or Sunday brunch. It isn't honest to allow Tim Duncan to walk on the court with no repercussion yet punish others for the same thing with a slightly different sequence of events.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:33:00 PM, Blogger element313 said...

to me this altercation just make more clear taht Kobe is teh MVP of the world

Kobe never has been suspended from a playoff game & he won the slam dunk contest & two all star MVPs

Kobe is the best

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I think that Vednam actually answered your question pretty well before you asked it. There was not even a hint of an altercation in the Elson situation. He toppled over, Duncan stood up, took one step on the court to see if Elson was OK and then sat back down.

I suppose that it is only natural for Suns fans to try to grasp at any straw to either complain about the Stoudemire/Diaw suspensions and/or try to get Duncan suspended as well but what Duncan did does not even come close to violating the rule. Stoudemire and Diaw wandered quite some distance from their bench after Horry committed a flagrant two foul and was ejected. It was very clear that an altercation of some sorts was going on at that time. I think that TNT's Kenny Smith made a great analogy: if a fan came running down the steps and tried to get on to the court, would he simply be escorted back to his seats if someone stopped him before he got on the court or would he be kicked out? Stoudemire and Diaw were running right toward the altercation and only the action of some Suns' personnel stopped them. They clearly violated the letter and spirit of the rule. As TNT's Ernie Johnson added, just running toward an altercation escalates it to a degree, because no one knows what your intentions are and someone has to restrain you as opposed to dealing with the altercation itself.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I hope that Kobe would have enough sense to not violate this rule if he is ever in a similar situation but if he does I would have no sympathy for him either after the NBA suspended him.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 1:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I also wish that Horry, Stoudemire and Diaw had kept their cool so that both teams would be at full strength tonight.

There is a lot of flopping in today's game, although I'm not sure that all of the specific examples you cited qualify. With Nash, I think that Horry did hit him pretty hard AND there was an element of flopping, too. You can tell because Nash lays motionless for a second and then flies up to try to get in Horry's face--he healed very quickly.

I'd like to see the NBA get rid of flopping and, as I mentioned before, get rid of the whole idea of running from halfway across the floor to take a charge. If you are already there and the offensive player bowls you over, fine. One thing from Game Four that, understandably, is not talked about is that one of Duncan's fouls came on a completely bogus charge call--Nash did his run over from halfway across the court trick, had both feet clearly in the restricted area but Duncan was whistled. In the previous game, the officials got that call right and called Nash for a block. It is dangerous for Nash to run underneath an airborne player but I can't really blame him because the rules encourage this and he certainly cannot guard anybody without doing this; that is why whenever anyone tries to praise his defense the only thing they can say is that he takes a lot of charges.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 2:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really made about this whole thing. Bruce Bowen got away with pure hostility & violence.

I'm a Jazz Fan so am watching this series closely. I have decided that if the Suns lost tomorrow & the Spurs win the championship in a few weeks, I will never watch another NBA game. Clearly there is favorism going on.

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 7:09:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

the suspension was fair as far as the rules but come on the rules is bad spurs got lucky phoenix has the better team i remeber when sac had a better team than the lakers but the officials made sure sacremento lost by calling crazy fouls in game 6 of that series this is the same thing this rule should be change because phoenix is penalized for what the spurs started really. but it is the rules so you got to stick to the books

At Wednesday, May 16, 2007 9:08:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Hayward said...

David, it was a well-reasoned post and it's hard to argue against such tight logic. But I'm going to.

The NBA needs to change its rules. I don't know if you read Bill Simmons' article on ESPN Page 2 today, but he argued that the league has been too prideful to reword this particular rule, and that arrogance cost the 1997 Knicks and may very well spell disaster for the Suns in this series.

And as I wrote in my post on the same subject, this feels especially wrong because Robert Horry -- who instigated the situation -- is a more or less expendable player, while Stoudemire and Diaw play key roles for the Suns. Even though I am not a Suns fan, I'm hoping that Steve Nash can make this discussion irrelevant.

At Thursday, May 17, 2007 7:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best, most reasonable post I've seen about this yet. Thanks for that.

I'm also on the side of 'the rule's there, it's known, and violators pay the price.' I'm not of the ilk who believe Horry had any more blame to shoulder. He's a savvy vet, the look on his face after the shot he delivered, his demeanor walking away... all showed he knew what he did. Also, that he was still in control.

Those who want to look for blame to feed their excuses of what's to come should look closely at the flop Nash finished with and hot-head Bell rushing over precipitating the bench-leaving.

I heard a comment also that at first Amare claimed to be checking in... Making excuses for his leaving the bench only makes him look more guilty. Some video angles show him clearly leaving his spot on the bench, forcefully, while splitting through team mates to get to the floor, eyes on the fracas, not the scorers' table.

I'm sorry to see it happen, the suspensions, which will likely give rise to even more 'what ifs' down the road, but those players are men, and as such, they should stand up and admit they (Stoudemire/Diaw) were in the wrong.

At Thursday, May 17, 2007 11:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Sacramento also missed about 8 million free throws (give or take) versus the Lakers so, whatever you might think about the officiating, they still had a chance to take matters into their own hands by making unguarded shots.


I read Simmons' article. He makes some interesting points but I stand by the reasoning that I articulated in my original post on this subject. He really dealt more with the question of whether or not the rule is good, which is a discussion to have in the offseason. That rule is in effect now, everyone knew it and the two guys who violated it received exactly the punishment that everyone knew that they would get. I don't have a problem with the NBA reexamining the rule--but if someone changes the speed limit on a road that doesn't mean you can go back and have a previous speeding ticket nullified because you were driving under the new limit.

If you believe, as I do, that the Spurs would win this series no matter what as long as Duncan plays, then the suspensions have actually helped Nash--or at least his reputation as an MVP. If the Suns win, he's the big hero. If they lose, he has a million excuses, from the blood rule to the suspensions.

Outside of this site, I doubt that too many people will mention that Nash shot 1-8 in the fourth quarter of Game Five. I know, he was tired. Right; Jordan was never tired--he never played when he was sick or injured, did he? Nash is an excellent player and he turned in a decent Game Five performance, but he faded down the stretch. For some reason, Dirk's performance and Kobe's fourth quarter performances in the first round--when Kobe was the only All-Star on his team, unlike Nash (or Dirk)--get a lot more negative publicity.

At Thursday, May 17, 2007 7:39:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

sac missed alot freethrows i did forget but the refereeing was qustionable i was glad though im a lakers fan but i knew in my heart we got away with one

At Tuesday, May 22, 2007 2:02:00 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Finally, someone with an intelligent view of this thing! Well done!

The Suns are not victims here, and to insist they are is actually symptomatic of mental disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (see Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited by Dr. Sam Vaknin).

Tell me, doesn't the following sound like Amare Stoudemire and Mike D'Antoni?

-- "Lack of individual accountability that results in a victim mentality and blaming others, society and the universe for their problems"

-- "Socially maladaptive, changing the rules of the game, introducing new variables, or otherwise influencing the external world to conform to their own needs"

-- "Manipulative and exploitative behavior"

-- "Distorted or superficial understanding of self and others' perceptions, being unable to see his or her objectionable, unacceptable, disagreeable, or self-destructive behaviors or the issues that may have contributed to the personality disorder"

-- "Behavior or a fantasy of grandiosity, a lack of empathy, a need to be admired by others, an inability to see the viewpoints of others, and hypersensitive to the opinions of others."

At Tuesday, May 22, 2007 4:57:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Those descriptions not only fit the Suns but also members of the media who defend them and suggest that the Spurs' win is somehow "tainted." I enjoy Pardon the Interruption but I wish Wilbon and Kornheiser would stop saying that they can't enjoy the Western Conference Finals because of the suspensions of Stoudemire and Diaw.


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