There was a lot wrong with the Phoenix Suns’ Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw being suspended for Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs due to being ejected for leaving the bench the game prior.
It was easy to see at the time, and just about everyone involved years later can agree, given the reason the two did so to protect Steve Nash after he was hip-checked by Robert Horry.
On top of the league cherrypicking a rule that was often broken, likely to use as a lead example of why they don’t want players leaving the bench after The Malice At The Palace, there were also extra concerns about the officiating, aided by the hindsight of referee Tim Donaghy’s gambling scandal.
Suns Ring of Honor member and broadcaster Al McCoy was able to recall that moment with a story he had never shared publicly before that shines a light on some cruel favoritism.
The following year, McCoy was present at a league meeting where announcers met with officials. McCoy made the decision entering the meeting that he wasn’t going to bring up the suspensions.
But it came up anyway.
A fellow announcer asked for the proper reasoning, and after being told rules are rules and that’s what commissioner David Stern had to do, another announcer asked the referees what made it different from other instances.
“He said earlier in the game, both Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen went out on the court when one of their players was on the floor,” McCoy said on Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta Thursday. “How is that any different when Stoudemire and Diaw went out on the floor?
“And this NBA official said, ‘Well, I called Timmy, and I talked to Timmy about that and Timmy said we thought one of our guys got hurt. That’s why we didn’t do anything about it.’
“And I couldn’t stop, I jumped up and I said, ‘What the hell do you think our guys were doing? They were looking to see if Steve Nash had been decapitated. They weren’t going out on the floor.’ And I can’t tell you after that session how many NBA officials came up to me and said, ‘Al, I’m so glad you jumped up and did what you did. That was the wrong situation, we know exactly what happened there and it was unbelievable.’”
Donaghy has admitted that his crew in that series let personal feelings against Suns owner Robert Sarver play a role in rigging that series in favor of San Antonio.
That was particularly evident in Game 3, widely agreed upon as one of the worst officiated games in league history.
“Tommy Nunez, who was the group supervisor at that time for that series, didn’t like Sarver, who was the owner of the Suns at that time, and was always pointing out in the tape sessions of things to call against Phoenix and things not to concentrate on against San Antonio,” Donaghy said on Bickley & Marotta in October. “And I think it put San Antonio at an advantage.”