Tuesday , May , 15 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Commissioner Stern Pulls The Ultimate Joe Crawford In Suspending Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire & Boris Diaw

Justice, if you can call it that, was swift and ugly. The victims, the Phoenix Suns, will lose Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for game five. After punishing referee Joey Crawford for altering a single game, how can Commissioner Stern justify altering the playoffs with his over-the-top suspensions? Why have rules when the victims get punished?

The Quick Take: The NBA’s unenlightened dictator has once again compromised basketball.

On Tuesday, Commissioner David Stern suspended Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for game five of their playoff series against San Antonio.

Their crime: they left the bench after Robert Horry body-checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table. Horry has been suspended for game five and six.

Right now, there’s no grey-area with this leaving the bench thing. None.

Forget that Stoudemire and Diaw barely left the bench. Forget that neither actually ran onto the court. And forget that cooler heads prevailed and no fight or scrum occurred.

Apparently, a rule is a rule. No matter who it punishes.

Here’s the real question: how can Commissioner Stern justify such a hypocritical stance when just weeks ago he suspended referee Joey Crawford for impacting a single game?

The little lawyer with the Napoleon complex has altered the playoffs and possibly the fate of the Phoenix franchise.

Robert Sarver, Phoenix’s owner, has reservations about the team’s growing payroll and may be break up this group if they lose the series. That’s a very real possibility after these two suspensions.

Joey Crawford who? Yeah, exactly! 

Consider that the guilty party, the Spurs, have benefited from their actions. The Suns are a much weaker team without Stoudemire and Diaw.  If Stern was truly about justice instead of punishment, he would have exercised discretion and not suspended any Phoenix player.

There is precedence for discretion with this specific rule. Vlade Divac of the Sacramento Kings avoided suspension when he left the bench during a playoff game. NBA head office made the decision to read between the lines and let Divac go with a warning.  It’s been done before.

And the NBA always reads between the lines with it’s rules. How many times do players travel in a game? How many times do players carry the ball? How many times do players leap off the bench after a big play? Why can’t the NBA read between the lines now?

I know a rule is a rule, especially if the dictator gets to enforce it.  But rules are supposed to promote fairness and protect players, teams, and ultimately the game . And right now enforcing this rule is doing the exact opposite. It’s total hypocrisy.

Click here to read and subscribe to Oly Sandor’s NBA Blog.