Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rewarding Behavior

When I was younger, I was a San Antonio Spurs fan. I thought David Robinson was one of the best role models in sports, and I thought the team always tried its best to do it the right way (forgetting that they took Rodman).

In the finals two years ago, the Spurs met my favorite NBA team, the Detroit Pistons. I remember this clearly, because my friend Red Hot Mamma, a Spurs fan, declared the Pistons "thuggish," and noted that her Spurs "have class." I actually felt that way for a long time, except for Manu Ginobli, who I think is a whiny flopper and has always been a whiny flopper.

This series with the Suns has pretty much destroyed that for me. Bruce Bowen, who I'd always admired for playing really good, tough defense, admitted to kicking Amare Stoudamire (if I remember the radio reports correctly), clearly kneed Steve Nash in the groin (I'll accept the gash in Nash's nose as incidental to the game, but the knee is over the line), and just has been really a bit of a thug in the series. Robert Horry, the person I always respected as cool under pressure (even with the crippling game 5 shot over Detroit in the aforementioned finals), lost all my respect with a painfully cheap battery of Nash with 18 seconds left in a lost game. There was absolutely no need for that whatsoever. Greg Poppovich had it in his authority to stop all this; he's the coach. His inaction led to the increase in violent behavior by his team, which culminated in Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw getting suspended for standing up and walking onto the court.

Understand this - it was wrong of Stoudamire and Diaw to do that. There's a rule, and they violated it. But, the punishment goes to the effect, not the cause, and that's where Commissioner Stern has really screwed up. He could have done something after game 1, but he didn't. He could have done something after the kick to Amare's leg, but he didn't. He could have suspended Bowen after kneeing Nash in the groin, but he didn't (well, he gave him a flagrant foul, that taught him). He waited until Horry hip checked the other team's franchise player (Nash) into the scorer's table in game four, then tried to throw an elbow at one of Nash's teammates before he did anything. He had the ability to nip this in the bud in many spots, yet he did nothing.

Then he has the audacity to blame the action he finally took, after four games of escalating violence by the Spurs against the Suns, on the Suns knowing the rules and breaking them. It's kind of like the little kid in school that would keep poking the big kid with the pencil. He would poke, and poke, and poke, and poke, and poke, and poke, and finally the big kid does something, and he gets in trouble, because he knew what he did was wrong and he did it anyway. That doesn't teach anybody anything, except that if you're the aggressor, you can keep needling away at the other team and end up egging them into getting themselves into trouble.

It was disingenuous of Stern to blame his actions on Stoudamire and Diaw. He needed to own up to what he didn't do for the first three games in response to thuggish behavior by a team that has lost all my respect. He was too slow in acting, and he did not act impartially - he could have suspended Duncan for leaving the bench, as well, because it was unclear at the time he left that there would be an altercation in the second period, but he chose not to - again, missing the opportunity to teach the lesson his actions imply he was trying to teach. And that hurts the league.

I'm now a Suns fan in the West, and have no respect for anyone on the Spurs except for Duncan. Parker released a french rap album, so I can't respect him anymore on general principle.

1 comment:

Just Wondering said...

Thanks for the nod to my man, Timmy Duncan. Guess you've opted for "bad hoops" instead of bad baseball as an integral part of your bar prep. Whatever works, man. You and Timmy will be all right (that saleslady at the Galleria ... not so much).