Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Stu Jackson's Neighborhood Watch

Intentional. Flagrant foul. Suspension.

Intentional. Flagrant foul. Suspension.

Unintentional? Offensive foul. No suspension.

Intentional. Defensive foul. Suspension?

-The league cited Artest for his foul on Ginobili in the third quarter of the Spurs' 122-88 victory. Ginobili caught Artest's elbow in his jaw while attempting to run through the lane, and the Argentine star fell to the ground as Artest got a personal foul.

Though Spurs coach Gregg Popovich jumped off the bench to argue for a flagrant foul, Ginobili got right back up, and the game continued. Afterward, Ginobili said he wasn't injured on the play and didn't consider it particularly serious, while Popovich said he had no problem with Artest's aggressive style of play.

"I didn't even see the play, but it couldn't have been that bad," said Mike Bibby, who declared himself "amazed" by the league's decision.

"There was no flagrant foul or technical foul on the play. They look at things differently for certain people, you could say."

Popovich said the Spurs didn't even contact the NBA about the play, something many teams -- including the Kings -- will do for any questionable play, particularly in the playoffs.

Ginobili was shocked when he heard about the suspension after practice at the Spurs' suburban training complex.

"For us it's good, because he's a great player, but we don't have much to do with it," Ginobili said. "It didn't hurt me. I said it after the game. But the league [watches] everything we do."

Intentional. Flagrant foul. On Kaman? $10,000 fine for Evans? No suspension?!

ESPN-"Certainly one clear difference is in the case of Reggie Evans we didn't have a clear view exactly what happened," Stu Jackson, the NBA vice president who handles such punishments, said Thursday. "We understand he reached underneath the player, but you couldn't see the end result. It's really an apple and an orange."

Intentional. Flagrant foul. Suspension.

Intentional. No foul. Suspension.

ESPN-Spurs point guard Tony Parker said justice was served.

"Jason Terry has been throwing a lot of punches in the series," Parker said. "He's gotten me so many times with cheap shots."

Intentional. Flagrant? Suspension?! (For Game 5 in a Finals tied at 2?! Wow.)

Chicago Sun Times
- Dallas coach Avery Johnson spoke with the media a few hours before the suspension was announced, and made it clear he did not feel one was warranted.

"Shaq was just in an awkward position," Johnson said. "When you're in an awkward position and Stack comes in and tries to give a hard foul and not a layup ... I always talk to them about giving hard fouls, but we definitely don't want to injure players.

"Shaq was going up [and Stackhouse] made a hard foul on him. Just like [in Game 1] when Stack went up and Shaq gave him a hard foul and almost broke his nose.

"If that's a suspension ... they will have to ... review everything that's happened throughout the playoffs, and there may have to be some retribution or something and maybe go and suspend some other players maybe they forgot."

Unintentional. No foul. Suspension?

MSNBC-“It’s just unintentional,” Bryant added. “I felt horrible about it. It’s just basketball, it happens.”

Stu Jackson disagreed, and offered the NBA’s explanation on a conference call.

“Some of the determining factors were the fact that there was contact made with Ginobili above the shoulders and the fact that this particular action by Kobe was an unnatural basketball motion. Following a shot, he drove a stiff arm in a backward motion and struck Ginobili in the head,” Jackson said. “We did not view this as an inadvertent action.”

No foul was called on the play.

“This blow was so swift in real time that it’s understandable why, in fact, an official would have missed the contact,” Jackson said. “In our view, this was not an attempt to draw a foul.”

Boston Globe-"They said it was intentional," Kobe sniffs. "I challenge anyone to find a player who is going up to take the winning shot and tries to intentionally hit someone in the face. What kind of sense does that make?"

Ginobili hit the deck on the play, clearly smarting from Kobe's errant forearm. Kobe called his friend, Bruce Bowen, of the Spurs to check on Ginobili the next day, and Bowen told him the NBA had contacted Ginobili about the incident.

"Bruce told me Manu told them it was completely unintentional," Kobe says. "I figured that was that. But then I got word later I was suspended.

"I don't understand it. I guess if someone gets hit in the face, they feel they have to do something. If they don't want players to flare their arms out when they are shooting, then call us and let us know at least.

"Guys have been doing that as long as I've been in the league. [Former Pacers star] Chuck Person has been doing it for years."

ESPN-Of greatest significance, there was zero clamor from the Spurs for Bryant to be disciplined. There was minimal media attention devoted to the incident, until Monday morning, because prominent Spurs insisted that there was no incident.

Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich immediately dismissed the notion that the hit was deliberate. "That's not his style," Pop said of Kobe after San Antonio's 96-94 overtime victory. Ginobili later told league security officials and the NBA Players Association that he hoped Bryant wouldn't be punished.

Unintentional. Flagrant foul. No suspension?

ESPN-With the Heat up 87-86 with 20.4 seconds left, Wade took a hard foul in the face, courtesy of his good friend James -- who was called for a flagrant foul as Wade writhed in pain near midcourt. Wade made both free throws to push the lead to 89-86, then made one more after being fouled again 2.4 seconds later.

"He was just going for the steal," Wade said.

"D-Wade knows it's not intentional," James said. "But it's part of the rules, you've got to call it."

Unintentional. Offensive foul. Suspension?!

ESPN-Nobody should be surprised that Kobe Bryant drew another one-game suspension for knocking someone else in the nose with his elbow, but the guy on the receiving end of that elbow actually thought the penalty was undeserved.

"As players, we know during a game when someone is trying to hurt you or be mean, and I never thought that was what was happening. So I'm really surprised by the decision," Minnesota's Marko Jaric told me this afternoon via cell phone about an hour after the NBA announced Bryant's one-game suspension.

Jaric said his only scar from the incident was a small marking above his eye, which is probably pretty fortunate since the elbow from Bryant gave Jaric a bloody nose, and as anybody who's ever been struck in the nose knows, a black eye often comes next. Just ask Manu Ginobili, who walked around with a shiner for two weeks after getting hit by Bryant's elbow in the Jan. 28 incident that previously earned Bryant a one-game suspension.

"I haven't seen the replay, but if you ask me what I thought about the play when it happened, I don't think he did it intentionally, and I don't think players should be suspended for things that happen unintentionally," Jaric said. "I think he was trying to draw a foul, and he swung his hand out to make it look dramatic, and he hit me by accident. He apologized right after."

Jaric said the pain from the strike was only a "2 or 3" on a scale of 1 to 10.

Stu, we need to talk. You're a busy man, I'll try to keep it brief. Do you watch The Simpsons? I know, again with the TV, but it's a good icebreaker. I don't watch it anymore-at least not the new episodes-but I'll still catch a rerun occasionally. There's a nostalgia to it, no? I only mention this because there was a scene that reminds me of you. Homer had formed a 'neighborhood watch' of mercenaries to catch a cat burglar and return Lisa's beloved saxophone. His brand of justice was not only vigilante, but ill advised and irrational. He was doing more harm to the community than good, and finally Lisa had to confront him.
"Dad, if you're the police, then who will police the police?"
"I don't know, Coast Guard?"
You are the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations. Besides David Stern, you're the league's most influential officer, because you control the rules of the game. The stars are aligned for the game to redefine itself and you're acting like Homer Fucking Simpson.

Please, don't be offended, I say this out of love-and fear. A genuine love for this game, and a fear of you taking it over. You're on the short list of candidates to succeed the commish, yet you've shown a disheartening inability to perform your current job requirements. You don't even know a reach around when you see one.

The recurring complaints about the NBA-on the court-are about the bad officiating, star treatment, and some even go as far as to say the games are rigged. Last year's playoffs certainly didn't help you any, but let's not forget how the game got to this point . Sure, Money received his share of calls, but he also took his lumps, just like every other star. Not those Dwyane Wade, "Ooh, that'll look good in the commercial!" lumps either. It was a different league back then. Of course after Michael left, things changed. Pat Riley's bullyball had taken over. The League already had enough reminders that it was 'thuggish', and they certainly didn't need their premier teams playing that style of ball, so they changed the rules. No more hand/hip check defense, no bumping, no nothing. A decade later, we have a league with few true centers, and a perimeter full of lightning fast players who can't touch each other. (That, combined with the ensuing influx of Euroballers are what make a 195lb point guard a possible three-peat MVP, not his skin color. I hope.)

I understand that some of these circumstances are beyond your control. You're just the new guy and you're looking to make some improvements. Problem is, you're inconsistent and many times looking in the wrong direction. You want to make some retroactive calls? That Wizards v. Warriors debacle would've been a good one. You want to talk about "unnatural basketball motions"?

Oh, that's right, you meant Kobe. Way to prioritize. Okay, no more sarcasm. I know you've already taken Bruce Bowen to task, and perhaps you're only going to focus on rule infractions committed by premier players, since they're the ones who set the example. (It would explain why you didn't suspend Brian Cook for making the exact same play in that Knicks game you kept Kobe out of. Oh, sorry. Bad habit. No more sarcasm!) But again your rationale, and it's application are inconsistent. Are you punishing Kobe for his intentions or the result of the play? You couldn't be punishing by intent, since neither 'victim' saw any and if you were punishing based on result, LeBron should've been suspended too. Or is this part of your crackdown on flopping? I'll withhold judgment on that until Mr. "Fall down seven times, shoot fourteen free throws" comes back.

Regardless, the point I'm trying to make Stu, is that the League is ripe with young talent that shouldn't be tethered to these outdated rules. The game needs opening up, not more restrictions. If you want to get rid of flopping, how about allowing hand checks? The defenders can go back to physical play and not have to resort to baiting for a whistle. The officials were already emasculated, now you've gone and completely neutered them with your post factum suspensions. They all want the same thing, quality basketball, but it seems as though you have your own ideas of how to achieve this. The thing is, if you're the police....ah, forget it.