I went to the bank today to deposit Matthew's phat check to yours truly and asked the teller the date. She cheerily reported that it was July 23rd.
July 23rd? Really?
And people are still whining about the God forsaken Phoenix Suns? What's the problem here? Nobody in America cares about baseball anymore or something? Is everyone trying really hard to ignore the fact that Barry Bonds is about to pass that ol' curmudgeon Hank Aaron for the all time home run record? Is the Mike Vick situation too sticky to think about and debate without delving into all kinds of racial stereotypes and cannonballing ourselves into murky social waters?
What is the dealio, yo?
Yeah, so apparently the league has (had) a dirty ref. At least that means he had a reason to suck. That leaves twenty or thirty more of them who are just flat out incompetent. What's their excuse?
Me, I don't think this is the end of the world. He wasn't a premier zebra and didn't work that many important games. His last playoff game worked in 06-07 was Game 3 of our Western Conference semi-final. Not exactly a high-status gig. Obviously his superiors were so thrilled with his performance in the contest that they informed him that his season was over afterward.
Like Anne Frank, I like to think that people are basically good until they give me a reason not to. So for now, until I get more evidence to the contrary, I will choose to believe this was just one scumbag, acting alone. He has in all likelihood committed a serious crime here, but in all seriousness, none of his deeds altered the scope of history all that much.
To this day I can tell you with a straight face and total conviction that Joey Crawford had more of an influence on the Suns/Spurs series than Tim Donaghy did because if it wasn't for Crawford acting like a total hothead in the April 15th game at Dallas and ejecting Duncan, the Spurs might very well have had the two seed and home court advantage in the second round.
One fellow who is predictably making a huuuuuuuge mountain about this (most likely because he's afraid to jinx his beloved Red Sox by writing a column about them) mole hill is Bill Simmons. He wrote a scathing article about the whole affair, focusing largely on Game 3, and basically took a huge steaming dump on our team and the legitimacy of our fourth title. If you're keeping track at home, the Spurs have only won two championships since neither the 1999 nor 2007 seasons in actuality ever "happened."
That's still two more than Dallas or Phoenix, of course, but I don't need to tell you that.
Personally, I think the NBA should conduct two separate banner/ring/trophy ceremonies every season. One, as per custom, will still be given to the team that wins the NBA Finals, and the other will be awarded to the squad Bill Simmons, President of the Sports Universe, deems worthy.
For this season the Bill Simmons Championship would obviously go to the Suns, last year's would have gone to the Mavs, and in 1999 we'd give one to, I dunno, the Celtics I guess. Because we all feel terrible about Len Bias and Reggie Lewis, really. Their premature deaths were the biggest tragedy in the history of the world you know. Well, outside of Boston not getting the 1st or 2nd pick in this lottery, that is.
Anyway, if Steve Nash and co. want to use the Donaghy thing as an excuse for losing, that's fine with me. Excuses are for losers. I watched every minute of that series and as I remember it, the Spurs prevailed mainly because Amare still sucks on defense, Shawn Marion always comes up small when it counts, Tony dominated Barbosa on both ends of the court, and Raja Bell couldn't guard Manu at all in Games 5 or 6. Oh, and Mike D'Antoni killed them the whole series. Anyone here remember it differently?
Simmons made excuse after excuse for the Suns, covering up for all their failures and conveniently ignoring all the tiny details that hurt his argument. Let's take them one by one.
He says the Suns would've won game 1 if Nash didn't get hurt. I hate to break it to you Bill, but not only were the Spurs winning the game at the time of Nash's injury, (self-inflicted by the way) but he was out for only 45 seconds total and those crooked NBA refs you're so low on made every allowance they could to get him back in the game, blatantly delaying action like umpires stopping to sweep home plate so a catcher can recover from a foul ball to the groin. No matter how much time they gave him, Nash and the trainer couldn't stop the bleeding.
Whose fault is that?
And you know what? As far as Game 1 goes, having Nash on the bench wasn't exactly a handicap for Phoenix. He sucked that game and finished with a -12 while his backup, Barbosa was +4.
Going into the series, most of the experts picked the Spurs to win because they were the tougher, more defensive minded, more experienced team (kinda like your old Celtics, eh Bill?). Game 1 was a chance for the Suns to make a statement on their home floor and they, and particularly their leader, came out flat and laid an egg. The Spurs stomped on them easily without Manu even playing all that well.
Game 2 was a legitamate beatdown for the Suns, and they did what they had to do, salvaging one home game. The Spurs never looked very crisp or into it and one got the impression that they were satisfied with themselves getting the one road win.
That brings us to Game 3, and Simmons' apopylectic shitfit. Yes, there were a few bad calls in the game, as there are in every game. But looking at the supposed Zapruder film on Youtube, nothing strikes me as that egregious besides the one Ginobili play. And even in that one, the issue wasn't that a foul was called, (Manu certainly thought there was, judging by his reaction) but the timing of it, with Donaghy blowing the whistle well after the shot attempt.
What's funny about the rest of the plays though is that A) they're mostly no-calls on 50/50 plays against the Spurs defense and B) Donaghy isn't the one making the calls, it's Eddie F. Rush. I guess he was in on it too.
People are making a big deal that Amare Stoudemire played only 21 minutes in this game because of foul trouble, but nobody brings up the fact that Amare was second in all of the NBA in fouls committed last season. Also, he's the bright individual that got himself suspended in Game 4.
Here's my crazy conspiracy theory, ready? Maybe, just maybe, Amare only played 21 minutes because Amare is really fucking stupid.
You know what's really hilarious? The worst non-call of the game wasn't even mentioned by Simmons or the Youtube clip. Raja Bell raked Manu across the face and practically gouged out his eye (remember the cut?) in the 3rd quarter. Nobody called a foul even though the evidence was pretty hard to refute afterward. Funny how nobody is bringing that play up, huh? In fact, what happened in the aftermath of that non-call is what won the game for the Spurs, not a crooked ref. Gino was so pissed off that he exploded for like 8 points in 40 seconds or something at the end of the 3rd quarter and the Spurs turned a tight game into a relatively routine playoff win.
Still, Simmons' rationalization for why "the bad refs" were sent to work Game 3 is ridiculous. Despite their Game 2 loss, the Spurs weren't the team that had anything to prove, Phoenix was. They were the wimps and chokers without the rings, not us. Show me one person, TSG included, who thought the Suns were still going to win that series after Game 1. The way Bill makes it sound, the league was afraid of Phoenix blowing past the Spurs 4-1 and sent the pro-home refs to give the feeble Spurs a chance to prolong the series before eventually succumbing to their mighty nectarine-and-plum clad conquerors in Game 6 or 7. Gimme a break. If the NBA was interested in a long series, they would have assigned road-friendly refs, if there even is such a thing, to Game 3. All the pressure to win in that situation is on the team that lost home court advantage. You give them Game 3 so they can relax and make the underdog play their tails off in Game 4 to send the series back 2-2.
Anyway, nward we go to Game 4. TSG makes it sound like that the Suns, finally given proper refs to work with, boatraced us in this game since they were the clearly superior team. Is he smoking crack? We were winning the whole game, and up by double digits for a huge chunk of it. We totally collapsed in the last eight minutes (you want to talk about some bad calls, go watch this one again, good lord) and the Suns outright stole the game.
Does anyone remember the actual game? No. All people talk about is the Nash/Robert Horry play, otherwise known as, "THE DIRTIEST, HARDEST, AND MOST FLAGRANT FOUL EVER COMMITTED."
What started as a simple hard foul became a month-long news story for three reasons, all having to do with the Suns. 1) Nash totally embellished the foul and pretended to be in a lot of pain, even though he got up pretty damn quickly when 2) Bell went after Horry after the play, turning it into an altercation leading to 3) Amare and Diaw stupidly leaving the bench and getting themselves suspended.
What's ironic to me about the suspensions is that with everyone questioning the integrity of the NBA in general and David Stern in particular, it took a lot of guts and ethics to do what he did. Think about it, why would this guy purposefully pull the strings for the Spurs? What's in it for him? Our team gets NO ratings. We play a slowdown style, our players don't say or do anything outrageous, and our coach shuns the media like a plague. ESPN can't stand us, and the public won't watch us. Our players are known as either shameless and balding floppers, dirty thugs, whiners, or emotionless automatons. Our point guard is only "NOW" because he's married to a woman everyone wants to sleep with.
Somebody give me one selfish or business-driven reason why Stern would want the Spurs in the NBA Finals. Go ahead, I've got all day.
He suspended Amare and Boris not because there's a conspiracy or because he wanted the Spurs to win. He suspended them because they broke a rule. David Stern isn't stupid. He knew that 90% of the people watching that series were rooting for the Suns. But rules are rules and the leaving the bench rule is a good one for the league; a concept that Bill Simmons and most of the gang at ESPN just can't seem to swallow because it - GASP! - happened in a playoff game and it was a spur of the moment thing.
Because you know, most brawls and fights like the Knicks/Nuggets thing or the Malice in the Palace are choreographed and planned well in advance.
I commend Stern for having the stones to suspend Amare, knowing the heat he would face for it and going through with it anyway. It's disingenuous of Simmons to bring up the suspension when it has nothing to do with the Donaghy controversy and laughable for him to group Diaw in with Stoudemire as "one of the Suns main guys." Mind you that this is the same Boris Diaw that Bill made fat jokes about the whole season and whom the Suns were desperately trying to unload during the offseason. For God sakes, I think Horry was more valuable to us than Diaw was to them, and the only reason he got a two game suspension (the Warriors alone committed a half dozen fouls in their five game series with the Jazz that were more egregious than Horry's by the way) was to make the thing look more palatable.
All you need to know about the Game 5 suspensions was that the NBA board of governors had a chance this past month to change or alter the rule and they decided not to. All of the whining and complaining was sound and fury, signifying nothing.
As for Game 5 itself, the culprits weren't Stern or the refs. The guy who blew that game was D'Antoni, plain and simple. He only played six guys (his main three of Nash, Marion and Bell all played 46+ mins) and his guys were completely tapped out in the second half. In the 2nd quarter with a 15 to 20 point lead, there was no reason for D'Antoni to not give Pat Burke and Jalen Rose a few spot minutes. No matter how poorly they did, it's not like they were in a position to kill the team right then. D'Antoni's lack of trust in his bench has crippled the Suns for three years running now and it boggles my mind that nobody took him to task for how he totally mismanaged such a critical, winnable game. A coach can't react to two rotation players being out by simply doling out their minutes to the other six. You have a 12 man roster for a reason and if you can't trust over a third of your guys for even a couple of minutes with a huge lead, then perhaps someone else should be brought in to do the GM job.
Oh right, that happened.
Simmons' assertion that the Suns would've cruised in Game 5 is asinine given how easily the Spurs won Games 1, 3, and 6 and how they were winning most of Game 4. The only contest, out of six, that the Suns won undisputed was Game 2. They got Amare back and all that changed was both teams scored a lot more points. You didn't need to have a ref on the inside to predict that one.
The better team won the series, and I wish ESPN and all the Suns bandwagoners could just accept it already. If y'all want rings, then perhaps you should tell your superduperstars to play a little defense and tell your coach to act like a leader of men instead of Yosemite Sam on speed.
It's sad how brainwashed Simmons has become by the worldwide leader and the LA lifestyle. He claims to be a Celtics fan, but he roots for Showtime basketball, style over substance. The Spurs can get stops when they have to have them and they can score when it matters most, from inside or outside, from their bigs or their smalls, from their stars to their role players. No other NBA team can claim such a thing.
How someone brought up rooting for Bird's Celtics and currently enjoying the Belichick Patriots run can engage in such a blatent, fraudulent crusade to shit on the Spurs run is beyond me.
Simmons' trademark line, for years, has been, "As always, I'm an idiot."