- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

So the Suns fall to the Spurs in Game 5 because of the suspension of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, and the mealy-mouthed in the media are aghast that David Stern and Stu Jackson could be so punitive.

These are the same poor souls who are horrified around tattoos, cornrows, baggy shorts and Ron Artest. These are the same poor souls who fret so over the NBA’s thug image and the potential loss of Aunt Maude in Omaha, Neb., as a spectator.

They have implored Stern to clean up his enterprise since Artest went bonkers in Auburn Hills, Mich. They have demanded that the players curtsy after being cited for an infraction by an official. They have stated their fears of tattoos because tattoos are so frightening, so polarizing, so edgy.

Of course, nearly every twentysomething babe in our city has a tattoo. Many of the babes even have multiple tattoos, and they really do not look all that menacing. For all we know, maybe Aunt Maude in Omaha has several tattoos on her wrinkled body.

But if you spot a tattoo on Carmelo Anthony, it is time to reach for your gun, just to be safe.

Anyway, as instructed, Stern and Jackson have been clear in their approach. They have ordered the players to wear nice clothes instead of hand-me-downs from Goodwill, and they have acted with extreme prejudice whenever the inner desperado has surfaced in the players.

This has included addressing Kobe Bryant’s unnatural shooting form. It just so happens Bryant likes to pimp smack defenders after releasing the ball.

Stern and Jackson inevitably give Bryant a game to rest his pimp-smacking hand.

Stern and Jackson have been boringly consistent in their approach, which should satisfy the coaches and players. Consistency is all they ever profess to want from referees.

But now, with the best series of the NBA postseason turning on a suspension, Suns coach Mike D’Antoni and the like-minded in the media have suggested Stern and Jackson should have ignored the leaving-the-bench rule and evoked the good-of-the-game clause in favor of Stoudemire and Diaw.

That way, the Suns would have defeated the Spurs in Game 5, and the Spurs would not have benefited from Robert Horry’s egregious assault on Steve Nash late in Game 4.

So the mealy-mouthed in the media want to measure each incident with a sliding rule, no doubt distinguishing between the regular season and postseason. No one would have cared a bit about the suspension of Stoudemire and Diaw in the regular season, if anyone outside Phoenix would have noticed.

Stern and Jackson weighed the short-term consequences against what they hope are long-term gains.

They want their employees to be scrub-faced choir boys on the say-so of the media, which is forever taking the pulse of skittish Aunt Maude in Omaha.

Why, Aunt Maude undoubtedly would have had a stroke if she saw Anthony backpedaling out of Madison Square Garden because of the rabid Jared Jeffries.

The suspension fallout notwithstanding, the leaving-the-bench rule is clear-cut, dating to the Heat-Knicks scrum in 1997 that resulted in the suspension of six players.

Patrick Ewing was among the suspended, and all he did was break the imaginary plane of the bench area before gathering himself.

Stoudemire and Diaw lost their self-control, if only momentarily, and Stern and Jackson responded accordingly.

If Stern and Jackson had acted in any other fashion, they would have been guilty of hypocrisy, and the conspiracy theorists would have shifted into overdrive and pinned the decision to the Spurs being in a small market.

Stern would have been viewed yet again as the Wizard of Oz-like manipulator of outcomes behind his screen.

Stern and Jackson had two questions to address: Is a rule a rule? Or is a rule not a rule if it possibly decides the outcome of a series?

As usual, they were consistent in their response.

The players might want to note that.

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