Unfortunately it's restricted to ESPN Insiders, but Dan Patrick's radio interview with David Stern today about the Amare Stoudemire/Boris Diaw/Robert Horry suspensions was chilling and awe-inspiring. If Dan Patrick, Charles Barkley, Steve Kerr, and anyone else who has spoken out against the NBA suspensions turn up floating down the Hudson River, you can be sure that somewhere, David Stern is in a box watching Enrico Caruso singing an aria, an aide whispers in his ear, and a smile breaks through his tears a la Robert De Niro in The Untouchables.
Stern, clearly not happy with all the negative reaction to the ruling, employed condescension, sarcasm, exasperation, and intimidation in equal measures in bullying Patrick. Stern has always been, for better or worse, the Don Corleone of sports commissioners, both impressive and alarming in the ruthlessness of his reign.
The NBA has all but conceded that their ruling was not about doing what was right but what was "correct." As Stu Jackson, NBA EVP of basketball operations, said, "It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness."
When you hear Stern's tone of voice to Patrick and read the Stu Jackson quotes, you can feel them digging in, the veins on their necks bulging. It's as if the more outraged commentators and fans become, the more obdurate the league becomes in its stance. They've chosen to stand firm despite losing the goodwill of fans, despite the fact that probably both the Spurs and Suns would be happy to continue that series without any suspensions, despite the fact that NBA fans would come see games even if an occasional fight broke out.
They wanted to prove a point, and now they have. Now a promising NBA playoffs have taken a back seat to the suspension story and David Stern. I think it's a terrible decision, for the same reason so many other people have (Sports Guy always does a good job speaking for the people). The NBA is an entertainment organization, this isn't a court of law, and I think a pragmatic ruling of "nothing to see, let's move on" would have maximized value for every one all around. But there's enough discussion of that. What's more fascinating to me is David Stern's personality. Someone should do an investigative bio of the man.
Thankfully, even if he can railroad Dan Patrick, he doesn't control the airwaves and Internet (though the way Hootie Johnson and Augusta control what's said during CBS's broadcast of the Masters is an example of how it can be done). I'm certain the rule will be changed this off-season, but that's little consolation to the Suns this series.
There may yet be karmic retribution for the league's stubborness. We seem to be headed towards another San Antonio/Detroit finals that no one watches.