Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Will YouTube bail out the Suns?

NBA commissioner David Stern has a big, difficult decision to make today. In the last seconds of the Phoenix Suns' come-from-behind series-tying victory in San Antonio a frustrated Robert Horry flagrantly hip checked Steve Nash into the scorers table. Since the incident took place next to Phoenix's bench, the Suns' star center Amare Stoudemire and key back-up Boris Diaw -- both being rested because Phoenix only wanted their best foul shooters on the floor-- jumped from their seats and moved towards Horry.

Phoenix's assistant coaches and staff didn't allow Stoudemire or Diaw to join a fray that never really developed, but here is the rule governing bench behavior during an on-court altercation:

During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $35,000. The suspensions will commence prior to the start of their next game.

Unfortunately for Diaw and Stoudemire, Stern has yet to, under any circumstance, deviate from the letter of this law. If Diaw, and especially Stoudemire, are suspended for game five suddenly a series where all the momentum has shifted to Phoenix begins to look good again for San Antonio.

Stern probably needs to make an exception in this case and allow Diaw and Stoudemire to play. And the reason? YouTube.

Today, any basketball fan can go on YouTube and download this clip which shows how vicious and provocative Horry's attack on Nash was, and how insignificant Diaw and Stoudemire's responses turned out being. Rule or no rule, if Stern suspends the two Phoenix players -- even if he suspends Horry too -- he is rewarding Horry for making so bold a foul so close to the Phoenix bench. In fact, there may even be people who conclude Horry, a championship ring-heavy veteran with a penchant for making big plays in big games, deliberately endangered Nash to elicit such a reaction.

In the past fans would have had to rely on memory or the printed word to describe what went down as they debated and formed consensus with others the morning after. Now all they have to do is log on to YouTube, and perception suddenly has the added virtue of mirroring reality.

YouTube has already played a large role in the public's take on this series. In this extremely popular clip from game two Bruce Bowen is seen kicking Stoudemire in his Achilles heal right after Stoudemire makes a dunk. There was no foul on the play, and it was only noticed after the game when Stoudemire brought it up, and Sun fans began posting slow motion versions of the incident on YouTube.

The Spurs, in particular Bruce Bowen, who has a whole collection of questionable moves highlighted on the video-sharing site, are beginning to gain the reputation of being dirty -- sort of throwbacks to the teams of the dismal, low scoring late-nineties that expanded the thuggish "Jordan rules" to everyone on the court.

The league has had a good run this post-season with teams such as Phoenix, Golden State and Utah providing some of the most free-wheeling aesthetically pleasing basketball we've seen in decades. As talented as the Spurs trio of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are, the rest of the team is old and slow, and they revert to a lot of the heavy-handed tactics that have been holding back the true beauty of the game.

David Stern is the most controlling and uncompromising of all the major sport commissioners, but he still remains sensitive to fan perception. If what is available on YouTube for anyone to see anytime they want helps push Stern to clear letter-of-the-law rule-breakers Stoudemire and Diaw, it is only a good thing.

And if, because of YouTube, Stern's dictatorship includes more reality-based analysis from the NBA's fan base the league will only be stronger.


Anonymous said...

Horry deserves credit. It’s not his fault the non-Nash Suns are cowards and fools. Circumstance denied him a game-winning shot opportunity, so he took a potentially series winner instead. -Hoops

JT said...

While I agree with Hoops that the Phoenix Suns, outside of the amazing Nash and Kurt Thomas, can be mentally feeble and physically frail, the act of initiatively jumping to the defense of your teammate who has just been leveled right in front of you is, in fact, a good one. The situation never escalated, and cooler heads quickly prevailed. The reason Stern instituted the bench rule is because players were actually fighting. There was no risk of a fight in this situation (as Steve Kerr points out, there was a incident earlier in the game, which went unnoticed, in which Bowen and Duncan got out of their seats after a hard foul -- should they be suspended too?) Just like Stern decimated the Knicks by effectively instituting the bench rule after the fact in 1998, he can save the Suns by employing discretion towards it today. It served it’s purpose anyone. Noone in their right mind would leave the bench to fight in an important playoff game – which was the problem Stern needed to and did solve. Diaw and Stoudemire should not be punished because they aren’t robots, for a situation where the only physical violence was what Horry did to Nash.

Garrett said...

what's next in this commissioner tit-for-tat, flex off of who has the most control over their league?

Most likely Vick will be out for the season, Bonds will hit 756 in an empty stadium and Barkley will be booted from TNT for "degrading the good name of the NBA"

fuck Stern for potentially ruining the best series of the playoffs.


Ryan said...

There is a simple solution. Next time Duncan steps out on the court like that, immediately punch a spurs player. Fight dirty with dirty.