Let me say something before I get started here. I love basketball. Truly. I watch basketball of all forms on television. I play in 3 separate basketball leagues. On those days when I'm not playing in these leagues, I have a regular group of 15-20 guys with whom I play pickup basketball. Some of my friends and family may even tell you that I play/watch too much basketball. This love affair with basketball is precisely why I hate the San Antonio Spurs.
Don't get me wrong, the Spurs are both an immensely talented and well run team. However, they are also a team full of whiners, floppers and cheap shot artists. (Okay, that last one was primarily directed at Bruce Bowen but I'm pretty sure Kurt Thomas isn't fully free of guilt here either). As I sat watching the Spurs take down the Phoenix Suns late last night, I found myself intensely rooting for Phoenix. Or was it against the Spurs? Upon further reflection, it was most certainly against the Spurs. I have no reason to root for Phoenix but I cannot stomach watching what the Spurs continually get away with their actions. On two consecutive possessions last night, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan went flying to the floor without any contact from the opposition. Of course, both of these flops were rewarded with foul calls. Fouls that were charged to Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal, respectively and changed the very tenor of the game. While Parker and Duncan each do their fare share of flopping they aren't even close to the most egregious violators of my basketball sensibilities. Manu Ginobili acts as if he's been shot nearly every time there is even the slightest bit of contact and is consistently rewarded by the referees. He's a great player, one of the truly underrated guys in the NBA but his style of play overshadows his talents and somehow makes him less of a star in my eyes. He's certainly not the only soccer-esque flopper in the NBA, just the most frequent and highest profile.
I've officially reached my breaking with both this team and flopping in the NBA. ( I consider the Spurs the primary reason flopping has become so pervasive.) The amount of flopping on picks, drives to the hoop and scrums underneath basket has rendered many NBA games virtually unwatchable and most Spurs games downright infuriating. These antics take away from the game and rewards players who look for an easy way out. The Spurs aren't the only team who do this, just the most successful. When you combine their style of play with the constant stream of incredulous looks they display whenever a foul is whistled on them it makes me want to reach out and punch their leader, Gregg Poppovich, in his pocked marked face. Some may say that the Spurs are merely engaging in gamesmanship and taking advantage of every opportunity afforded them. I say that they're borderline cheating and, most certainly, disrespecting the game.
To this team and organization, winning is the only excuse they need to attempt underhanded tactics (see: The unbelievably lopsided Kurt Thomas trade, which was executed with the assistance of former employee, Seattle GM Sam Presti. Which doesn't even begin to discuss the manner in which they employed the Hack-A-Shaq strategy in the Suns series). I can think of no NBA team that is more worthy of the public's scorn and venom. Yet, it seems as though only a few NBA fans care, or even notice, what this team has perpetrated upon the NBA. They have literally changed the way that the game is played and not for the better.
I'd like to see the NBA institute fouls for flops but that seems unlikely. I'd like to see the Spurs just play basketball and stop trying to find easy ways to win but that seems even less likely. More than anything, I want to see basketball played in a manner in which the most skillful and deserving team wins. Not because they know all the little, dirty tricks but because they outplayed their opponent. However, thats not where the NBA is right now and until something drastic is done its not going to happen anytime soon.
So, until that point I'll resign myself to rooting against the Spurs and for teams that at least attempt to play basketball in an honest manner. I'll sit on my couch, occasionally cursing the way this team plays and silently hope that the NBA, its referees and the fans will see this team for what they are...not just champions (because they undoubtedly are) but floppers and whiners deserving of our attention and shame.