Dan Patrick: Let me ask you about how much deliberating went into the suspensions for Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw.
David Stern: A lot.
Dan Patrick: Can you give me parameters? If it was cut and dried, according to Stu Jackson, if you get up off the bench in a situation like that in an aggressive mode, you’re going to be suspended for a game.
David Stern: Right.
Dan Patrick: That is right?
David Stern: Right. Well, you look over the tape. You look over it again. You look at all the angles. You decide what to do with respect to Robert Horry. So you talk to people, see what happened. You try to do it in some full way.
Dan Patrick: Is that rule open to any interpretation of these two players getting up to check on their teammate, but not in an aggressive manner that they did go on the floor?
David Stern: No. I mean, you know, you can jump up and take a step or two to look at. But the entire intent as a rule, for the 10 years or so it’s been in effect, was to make it clear that there’s no way to know whether someone running out on the court is coming as friend or foe, and so when Rudy Tomjanovich came running out to see what was going on, to break up a fight, his face was forever changed. And it’s a great concern that we have. So we made it as simple as possible.
Dan Patrick: But you have to factor in, though, Commissioner, that these are certainly one marquee player and a valuable bench player.
David Stern: Right. I see. So I should make my decisions based upon whether it’s a marquee player. I’m going to write that down.
Dan Patrick: Well, Commissioner, could this have an impact on who ends up winning this series that you have mop-up time with Robert Horry, the Spurs have been an aggressor, the Phoenix Suns are going to pay the price?
David Stern: No. It’s interesting. Only because you’re an opinion maker will I wrestle with you, Dan.
Dan Patrick: Okay.
David Stern: I guess I would say to you that one of the things that we did was put in a rule that said nobody leaves the bench, so if the players who were not playing, it means that they violated the rule. It means that either they didn’t know about it — I guess you would agree they probably did.
Dan Patrick: But you have to factor in —
David Stern: Either they didn’t know about it or they knew about it and they forgot about it or one of the six assistant coaches that was there didn’t grab them fast enough.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner.
David Stern: So these players took themselves out of the game, except for the exception that you would like is if it’s a franchise player as opposed to a scrub who goes out, we should add some factor that allows us to do that. Okay, I mean, I’m going to put that to the owners. This subject has not been raised in 10 years.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, do you think the owners would look for interpretation in this rule?
David Stern: No.
Dan Patrick: Not at all?
David Stern: No.
Dan Patrick: They didn’t go on the floor, you know — this wasn’t across the floor like what happened against Miami and the Knicks.
David Stern: They were 20 or 25 feet away from the bench, and they violated the rule. And so, I mean, it’s a fair point if you want to change the rule. If the rule is subject to, of course, all the lobbying that will go on, if the rule is, okay, the Commissioner should suspend a player who is on the court if he thinks that his intention was bad, he ran far but didn’t go far enough — help me out, Dan.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, come on.
David Stern: Help me out. Help me out.
Dan Patrick: What I’m saying is, you have a great series, marquee series. Do you want it to be decided?
David Stern: You’re right.
Dan Patrick: Can you be fair to the situation?
David Stern: Okay, right. Therefore, so depending upon what will put the most fans watching our games and the most money in our pockets, we should bend our rules. Okay, I’ll put that — let me write that down.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, the point is, this series is going to be decided on Robert Horry’s hip check with Steve Nash.
David Stern: You know, I’m going to wrestle with you. You better top that. It’s not being decided by that. It’s being decided because two Phoenix Suns who knew about the rule forgot about it, couldn’t control themselves, didn’t have coaches that could control them and don’t you forget it.
Dan Patrick: I understand.
David Stern: And now, now, is it exactly fair? Probably not. Is it a red-letter rule? Absolutely. Did it cost other teams their playoffs and championship? Yes. So I guess there’s no way for us to get the message through. Do you think next year the players will understand it? I mean, I’m happy. I’m unhappy with this result. There’s no doubt about it. If the owners would like to change it, I’m happy to do it. Believe me, I’d be happy to do it. But to listen to the palaver that Robert Horry changed the series is just silly. What changed the series is Amare and Boris ran out onto the court and they either forgot about it or they couldn’t control themselves. I don’t know which one. And there wasn’t an assistant coach there, one of six, to restrain them.
Okay, so now either we have to have new rules, put up a fence, or hire more assistant coaches.
Dan Patrick: I haven’t seen the Spurs bench, have you, in this, their reaction to this?
David Stern: Yes.
Dan Patrick: You did see it?
David Stern: Yes.
Dan Patrick: Nobody got up?
David Stern: No.
Dan Patrick: They all sat there like first graders?
David Stern: They looked.
Dan Patrick: So Duncan got up off the bench in the second quarter of what could have been an incident, Commissioner.
David Stern: He didn’t. He didn’t leave to go to an altercation.
Dan Patrick: He got off the bench.
David Stern: Now you sound like Charles and Steve Kerr. If all that’s going to happen is get the same old stuff repeated, that was looked at. There was no one rushing to an altercation in that case. And, of course, we have had players in the past step onto the court but not go 20 feet. I mean, you know, your point is right on one point, it’s a shame that this happened, and it’s a shame that by the players not being able to control themselves they put the team into this position. And I guess it’s a shame that we have a rule that I have to enforce. And I accept all of the above. And so the owners and the teams will have to decide to change the rule, which is fine, too. I’m okay with that.
Dan Patrick: I guess my problem is just that you’ve had —
David Stern: Only one?
Dan Patrick: Well, one of. One of.
David Stern: Okay.
Dan Patrick: Just the team that has been the aggressor is benefitting in this situation. Like it or not, Bruce Bowen, aggressor. Certainly what happened —
David Stern: We have a rule that says that if you swing at somebody, even if he started it, you’re suspended. Why do you think we have that rule?
Dan Patrick: You tell me.
David Stern: Because we don’t want our players killing each other or getting killed. Even though a cheap-shot artist can go do something to a player, we have a rule, long-embraced by our league and our teams, that if you throw a punch, you’re out, whatever the provocation. And it’s not a great rule, but it’s our rule, so we could stop the possibility that players would hurt each other or get badly hurt.
Dan Patrick: Understand. I understand.
David Stern: But it’s a bad rule. You would say it’s a bad rule.
Dan Patrick: Yes.
David Stern: Okay. I accept it. It’s our rule.
Dan Patrick: That’s fine.
David Stern: It’s our rule. And, frankly, one of the things that I’ve watched over the years is we’ve tried so hard to squeeze fighting out of our game and potential injury out of our game. And so if I had a team, I would make sure that my players never leave the bench and so would you.
Dan Patrick: Can’t you factor in the human element of reacting, Commissioner, in what has been a very hard series and the hard fouls have been issued?
David Stern: I can if the owners change the rules. Then I can make special exceptions.
Dan Patrick: You can’t supersede this?
David Stern: I can make special exceptions. If it’s a good series, I don’t want to lose people, if it might affect the series, if it’s a superstar rather than a scrub, all of those I can change. You’re right. I can do that if the owners give me that discretion. You think it would be a good idea for me to have it.
Dan Patrick: I think you could have interpretation, that’s all. Look, I agree —
David Stern: This is not about interpretation.
Dan Patrick: Yes it is, Commissioner.
David Stern: When someone runs out to the court —
Dan Patrick: They didn’t run out on —
David Stern: — what was his intent?
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, they did not run onto the court. They ran down the sideline.
David Stern: So they only walked away from the bench. They didn’t move at a certain pace, so I’ll check their pace and decide whether their pace was high enough to cause me to think that their intent, what was going on in their mind, was such, et cetera, et cetera. And in the meantime the one way to be sure I guess is if someone seeing them turns around and breaks their face, I’ll say, Oh, I guess they either did or they didn’t intend to do that or they did or they didn’t feel threatened. Guess what? The guy that punches him is going to get suspended for a long period of time. Do you think that would be fair, Dan? Do you think it would be fair if somebody felt threatened by them coming over?
Dan Patrick: And that’s what happened with Rudy Tomjanovich.
David Stern: Do you think it would be fair in modern day?
Dan Patrick: No.
David Stern: Then come on.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, you’re taking this to the extreme.
David Stern: Of course, you take it to the extreme.
Dan Patrick: You cannot. You had intent I believe with Bruce Bowen, you had intent with Baron Davis, you had intent with some of these other fouls that happened. Those are intent. Those players were given a flagrant.
David Stern: And, by the way, we had a very easy rule to employ, it’s been in for a decade, and not one Competition Committee, not one owner, not one Governors meeting has ever raised the subject for a change.
Dan Patrick: I don’t want a player on the floor. I know what happened with Rudy T. I understand exactly what you’re saying. What I’m saying, as the commissioner, in the best interest of basketball, the series, the game, the players.
David Stern: In the best interest of the game, our players have to learn that they can’t leave the bench and move 20 feet down the line, wherever it is, and be subject to all of the possible things that can happen. That’s why it’s a red-letter rule.
Now, you know, maybe we should change it. And I’m open to that. Of course I’m open to it. This is just an attempt to let the game get decided, you know, in a fair way, but subject to rules. And sports is the one place where you know the rules. You know, the next thing you’ll tell me is there’s a great player, we should have 16 players on a roster for a team that has a great player (indiscernible). It would be a good idea, but the rule is 15 players with 12 active.
Dan Patrick: Look, I understand this is a difficult —
David Stern: You don’t understand anything, Dan. You know, we know that. We’ve been at this for too many years.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, this had to be difficult to enforce. I understand that. I just, as an NBA fan, I would hope that there is some type of interpretation.
David Stern: Okay.
Dan Patrick: That’s it.
David Stern: And I agree.
Dan Patrick: That’s all.
David Stern: And don’t start with this stuff about, well, if it’s a good player, you shouldn’t enforce it. If it’s a good series, you shouldn’t enforce it. Think about what you just said.
Dan Patrick: You need to —
David Stern: Play the tape back when we’re finished, Dan. Play the tape back.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, Commissioner, Commissioner, I was wrong in saying if it’s a marquee player, okay?
David Stern: I accept that.
Dan Patrick: Okay.
David Stern: I knew that when you said it.
Dan Patrick: Okay. Well, I’m man enough to tell you.
David Stern: And I love you.
Dan Patrick: I’m just saying, I’m man enough to say that’s wrong. You should factor that in no matter who it is. And you’re trying to be fair, and you are factoring it in that it’s Amare Stoudemire. I know that’s difficult. The problem I’ve got is, and I will continue to have is, the team that’s the aggressor is going to benefit from this and I think it’s wrong that they will benefit from this, that’s all.
David Stern: Because they were able to get, in this case, the other team to lose their cool and to violate the rules.
Dan Patrick: And the reason why they lost their cool, Commissioner, is because there had been hard fouls against their star player in this series.
David Stern: I see. So the exception would be if there’s a hard foul —
Dan Patrick: No.
David Stern: — against your teammates, then you can leave down the court.
Dan Patrick: Several, Commissioner, several. Against Steve Nash.
David Stern: Okay, next year we’ll decide whether it’s up to three hard fouls, then you can come onto the court. Come on, Dan, help me out here.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, this is why the Suns were on edge. That’s what you have to understand. They have beat up Steve Nash in this series. I believe when it happened, they reacted. Were they wrong to leave the bench? Yes. Can you factor in what they’ve done to Steve Nash in this series? Yes. Can you say, look, they didn’t go on the floor, they didn’t engage with anybody?
David Stern: They went — they left the area —
Dan Patrick: They went down by the coaching box.
David Stern: — of the bench during an altercation and they should not have done it. Only two of the — I guess you have 12, take away — there were seven on the bench, and two were not able to control themselves, okay. I mean, that’s the spectacle we try to avoid.
Dan Patrick: I know that.
David Stern: Bench-clearing brawls.
Dan Patrick: Look, I understand the sensitivity after certainly what happened in Detroit. And you are doing what you think is best to protect the players. I understand all of that. I’m just disappointed — I want two great teams —
David Stern: You don’t like the result, and I agree with you.
Dan Patrick: I want to see — I picked San Antonio to win the NBA title, Commissioner. It’s not like I have this agenda. It’s just I want them to earn it.
David Stern: Of course you don’t have an agenda.
Dan Patrick: I want two great teams to play against each other.
David Stern: I wouldn’t suggest you have an agenda. I was just questioning your competence, Dan, that’s all.
Dan Patrick: You’ve done that for 25 years. Why should you stop?
David Stern: But you’ll have me back, won’t you?
Dan Patrick: Yes, I will. Let me go to a higher authority. Charles Barkley will join me next.
David Stern: I know. I know. Tell Charles, who I watch, Charles, what he wanted me to do was to go to intent.
Dan Patrick: Okay.
David Stern: And tell Charles that that’s a tough one to try to figure out what’s in a player’s mind because I never know what’s in Charles’ mind. He doesn’t know what is in his mind. That’s his charm.
Dan Patrick: I was going to say the same thing.
David Stern: Okay, so we’re looking for bright lines. And, frankly, boy, you know, it would be interesting to see the rule reconsidered and changed. And then wait till you see the lobbying then. Oh, my.
But, you know, it’s not — as a fan, believe me, I’m not in favor.
Dan Patrick: Are you going to the game tonight?
David Stern: I am not.
Dan Patrick: Okay.
David Stern: I am not. I am not flying. I went round trip yesterday to give Dirk his MVP award with a cold. And I’m not in such good shape.
Dan Patrick: Commissioner, I’ll see you in the Western Conference Finals.
David Stern: Whoever’s in them.