The Great Closeout Debate

In the immediate aftermath everyone was pretty upset with the Warrior’s Zaza Pachulia for sliding underneath Kawhi. After the quotes from both Zaza and Kawhi came out — both saying there was no intent — it seemed things were going to settle in the realm of something like distaste. 1

Then Gregg Popovich came out with a firery rant that touched on all three subtopics of this issue:

1. Was it intentional?

Pop (paraphrased):

Who cares about his intent? You get jail time for unintentional manslaughter.

2. Was he upset?

What do you think? We had a chance to beat the best team in the league by 23+ and our best guy went down.

3. Was it dirty?

Zaza sure has some history of it and it plays into their feeling about it.

Here is the play again, for reference.

Pop ripping Zaza

The obvious counter-argument here is that Bruce Bowen was hurting dudes in his time as a Spur and got his number in the rafters in SA for it (among other things).

Here is some surface-level hypocrisy from Pop, as pointed out by Matt Doyle.

Pop Defending Bowen

Some dirty Bowen lowlights:

I think the key here is context. The style of play in 2006 was famously more forgiving of physical play. The kind of thing Bowen did then was mostly discouraged by unwritten rule. Now it is explicitly outlawed.

See this in the old MYSA article:

Popovich said Bowen is being singled out, citing incidents where New Jersey’s Richard Jefferson and Dallas’ Josh Howard sprained ankles after landing on Miami’s Shaquille O’Neal and Golden State’s Mickael Pietrus.

It was more of an issue back then. Enough for the league to step in and actually provide guidance instead of direct calls to Bowen himself about changing his ‘tactics’.

If this happened with Bruce Bowen on the floor, on the bench or on the roster that is one thing. He is long retired and the game has changed in the last decade.

Earlier in the EC Semis we were arguing the relative dirty nature of the Kelly Fight compared to the 80s’ slugfests. What was tough basketball then is now over-the-line. I don’t make the rules, nor do I want to get into a debate over the shoulds of the game, but I think it is clear that Zaza is a habitual line-stepper and that he has no benefit of the doubt in this scenario, at least with Pop.

I do not have video, but LMA might have done something similar to Curry just after. This sort of emphasizes the point about reputation. It is hard to say the guy that throws elbows, and attempts MMA moves does not mean harm compared to Aldridge, who has no such rep. So it goes.

  1. Noted dirty player Draymond Green saw the video and seemed to only offer a dutiful ‘eh, not dirty’ without a passionate defense. It was telling.