Thursday, May 10, 2007

Amare Strikes the Match

Oh, Amare, what have you done.

I started trolling around on the World Wide Web to give myself a break from this Eastern Conference snoozer (the Pistons couldn't be less interested in winning Game Three) and discovered that a pretty major story occured.

[Update: Luckily, I had paused this on my TiVo - in my continued effort to see every minute of televised playoff action - so I saw Detroit come back to win this game. I still don't know that they were all that intent on stealing Game Three, nor did this elevate much beyond the level of "snoozer," but I felt I had to update what turned out to be a poor choice for a lead-in. You can see more on this in the comments section.)

Amare Stoudemire just called out Bruce Bowen, Manu Ginobili, and the entire Spurs team for being "dirty."

This came about because of this play, where Bowen did his best Jet Li impersonation on Stoudemire's Achilles tendon during Game Two on Tuesday night. Scroll down and you will see that I detailed virtually every close call of that entire game and even though I was watching frames in slow-motion, I still didn't see this happen in real time. However, I did see Bowen commit about 15 other dirty plays and shady fouls that went unnoticed on first viewing. So this doesn't surprise me at all.

(By the way, credit Henry Abbott of True Hoop for being the first one to cover Bowen's most recent ninja display.)

In fact, I think you could make a fairly easy case that Bowen is indeed a dirty player. And if not dirty, than at the very least a guy who fouls more than virtually anyone else in the NBA. Watch any Spurs game for ample evidence. Or just listen to players in the league, guys like Ray Allen who don't like to see their careers and large paychecks in jeopardy because Bowen happens to favor the old "undercut and make you land on my foot" move. (And if you complain about that, he might respond with the old "kick you in the back while you are on the ground" special.) However you slice it, Bowen isn't a real joy to play against. He's like the pitcher who head hunts or the lineman that cut blocks ... shady plays that are possibly allowed within the framework of the game, but tend to cause terrible injuries and are just not real respected by your athletic brethren.

And you could probably make a case that Ginobili likes to get his nut shots in as well (ala John Stockton). And that Horry likes to get into your ribs a little bit and to rack up those "goaltending" calls that are really thinly-disguised delay of game violations (when he knocks the ball out from underneath the basket). And that the Spurs, in general, get away with a whole heck of a lot. In fact, I'm willing to go so far as to say that they have been intentionally fouling for years in an effort to systematically desensitize NBA refs to their physical play and thereby gain a massive advantage. And it is working. It is the phenomenon we all see but can't quite figure out - that San Antonio, despite being fairly unlikeable, boring, and from a small market, gets all the calls. I mean, why would the NBA want that? And if the NBA doesn't want the refs to favor San Antonio, why does it happen about 95% of the time? What on earth is going on here? More on this is coming later tonight, but the sneak peak is that I think systematic desensitization is the answer. (And even if it's not, the phrase "systematic desensitization" sounds pretty good.)

BUT. All of that said, Amare just made a huge mistake (best said in the Gob from Arrested Development voice). What good can possibly come out of these statements? It is not as if the league is going to suspend Bowen. The refs aren't going to suddenly reverse nearly decade-long trends of allowing him to play this way. All this is going to do is distract Phoenix and light a fire under the Spurs.

San Antonio already has home court advantage, the mental edge of being the next team to dictate the action through an adjustment, and having a really good, experienced team. Now they have bulletin board material to go along with all of that.

Any chance the Suns had of catching the Spurs feeling good about getting a split, or letting up for a second ... that just went out the window.

I don't blame Amare for being upset and for being especially sensitive about players going for his legs. He is, after all, coming off of the scariest knee surgery in basketball. That said, he just made a major blunder.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, you might want to edit that part about the Pistons. I hope you ended up catching the second half, and can I say that all the typists saying the Spurs/Suns is the finals are really really overlooking Detroit.

Adam Hoff said...

I think you are right on both counts: an edit is in order and the Pistons are a legit contender. I'm going to break out a full scale examination of Detroit either tonight or tomorrow.

The weird thing is that while I am going to definitely update the intro to this post, I'm not sure I feel all that differently. Detroit really didn't seem that concerned with winning this game. Billups had a "we were going to GIVE you this one!" sneer on his face (or maybe that was just his usual awesome sneer; man, I do love Billups) and Sheed kept shaking his head as if to say, "This is simply too easy." I'm not saying they were trying to lose, but I do think they were totally prepared to give this one to Chicago and then take care of business in the next two. But hey, they've played enough basketball to know better than to leave a freebie on the table (a lesson the Warriors clearly have yet to learn).

Also, I don't know that I have to retract the "snoozer" part of the post. I was impressed by Detroit's comeback and especially their defense, but it was still a little boring.

In my mind, this only fuels my "should have traded for Pau" fire. Chicago lost this game for one reason: they can't wheather storms and dry spells because they don't have a single lowpost option.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I totally agree, it was a snoozer, and I think Detroit only played with their top intensity for maybe 20 minutes of the game, and overall they just didn't play that well.

But the fact that that was enough for them to come back from 20 points down, and really just rip out Chicago's heart and stomp on it the way they did was really pretty impressive, and I imagine a little scary for everyone else still in the playoffs.

Adam Hoff said...

Oh no doubt about that. And they haven't even really needed to go to Hunter or Maxiell much, who are both game-changing defensive players off the bench. They are definitely the sleeping giant of these playoffs ... if you can be 7-0 in the postseason and still be considered "sleeping."

Part of me gets bored by the Pistons because there are so many familiar faces and they are going to be in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight year and probably the NBA finals for the third time in four years. However, I have to remember that this could be redemption for C-Webb (who always got boned over in Sacramento) and Flip, who was unfairly bashed last year when Ben Wallace decided to stop trying. Plus, my boy Alex Acker from Pepperdine is property of the Pistons and balling in Greece, so that is another emotional tie.

In a total upset, I find myself becoming more enamored with Detroit with each passing victory. Normally constant winning makes me like teams less.

Garry Shuck said...

Regarding Amare and "lighting a fire" and distracting the Suns, I've seen that take quite in several places around the web, and I'm not sure I really think that.

First off, Amare (like many players) tends to play better when he's pissed--such as the "I've got something for Kwame" game 4 against the Lakers. He's one of those guys that welcomes the pressure.

Secondly, it just makes no sense to me that the Spurs were all thinking "they really handled us, what are we going to do", and now that Amare has called them dirty, they're suddenly "ooh, he called us a dirty team, now we're really going to show them."

I'm pretty sure that once the sting of that 20-spot faded (and the 3 days since that game have faded it), they all realized that it was just one game, they got the split, and they're headed home, ready to spring Pop's adjustments to Thomas on the Suns.

I think this can only help the Suns--the announcers will be talking about it, the refs will have their eyes on Bowen, and a tighter called game will probably help the Suns.

Regarding the Deeeetroit snoozer: exactly.

Adam Hoff said...

Interesting. Those are some good points. I certainly don't think the Spurs were lacking confidence or motivation, but it is possible they were feeling pleased with the split and might have lost a bit of edge. No chance of that now. Also, the crowd is going to be in a lather now for sure. But you are right, I failed to consider the possibility that the Suns could feed off this, or that Amare could use it as a source of Bruce Banner-like anger. Should be an interesting story line to follow, if nothing else. Thanks for the solid comments.

Warren said...

Hey Adam, this is my first time reading your stuff and I must say that being a Suns fan I was impressed with the play by play you did on game 2. But I wonder how you can root for this spurs team (On espn you say "you can enjoy their success a lot more") when you know they have an advantage that, although you make light of, is definitely unfair.

Adam Hoff said...

Warren, I'm afraid that my conclusion might have come off wrong. I am most certainly not "rooting" for the Spurs. I desperately want the Suns to win it all, because I think it would be good for basketball. I might have been a little over-the-top in attempt to curb my pro-Suns, anti-Spurs bias, but I really do feel slightly better about what I'm seeing if I believe it is the product of consistency. "Enjoying their success" is probably the wrong word, but I no longer thing the NBA is doing anything sinister. And while I don't really applaud the Spurs is they really are coaching the players up on "how to foul," I do like to see teams retain coaches and stick with people. Too many coaches get canned at the drop of a hat in sports, so if S.A. is getting the benefit of loyalty, it makes me feel a bit better. So while I enjoy it "a little more," I still don't really enjoy it. I took a bit more time with the actual post than with the email, so the wording isn't quite right, in hindsight. Thanks for the comment.