San Antonio Express-News – May 15, 2007 – Bryan Chu – Spurs fan John Strong won’t be glued to his television for Wednesday’s match-up between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns. No, instead he said he hopes the Spurs lose the series after what transpired during Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals Monday night at the AT&T center.

His reason? He said he’s lost respect for the team.

In the waning seconds of what would be a Phoenix victory, the Spurs’ Robert Horry hip-checked the Suns’ two-time MVP Steve Nash, sending him sprawling into the scorer’s table. The flagrant foul cost Horry a two-game suspension while Suns’ players Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended for one game because they left the bench during an ensuing fight between the teams.

Beyond the Spurs being pushed to the brink with the best-of-seven series locked at 2-2, it also appears that the team’s reputation is in similar peril.

Dubbed the goody-two-shoes team and lauded more for its work ethic and classy reputation, the Spurs’ unblemished image might have sullied after Horry’s flagrant foul and two other incidents involving the Spurs’ Bruce Bowen.

Questions are being asked among fans: Have the Spurs gone from darlings to demons? Has “Big Shot Rob become Cheap Shot Bob?

Strong, 64, said he thinks so.

“That was disgraceful, hopefully the kids went to bed by then, Strong said in a telephone interview. “It was unsportsmanlike, vindictive and vicious. That wasn’t consistent of my image of Robert Horry and the Spurs.

“It’s embarrassing to their legacy, he added.

That legacy includes three championships over the last eight years. Coincidently, in the past 11 seasons, three Spurs�Steve Smith in 2002, David Robinson in 2001 and Avery Johnson in 1998�have received the Joe Dumars Award for sportsmanship, which honors those players who best exemplify ethical behavior, fair play and integrity on the court.

“We love what the (Spurs) stand for: reputation and everything they do for community,Strong said. “It’s all wonderful, but a lot of that went away in those few minutes.

Stoudemire has sounded out, calling the Spurs a “dirty team. The all-star claimed that Bowen clipped him behind his legâ€â€?which he had surgically repaired and forced him to miss nearly the entire season last year â€â€? when he was going up for a dunk in Game 2. Combine that with Bowen’s questionable knee to Nash’s groin in Game 3 and Horry’s smack-down on Nash in Game 4, and some Spurs fans are changing their tune on the squeaky-clean Spurs.

“I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to, Strong said, but now I have to believe it because of Horry.

Others agreed.

I was shocked, said Diane Morin, 67, owner of Sports Mania, a store that sells jerseys and cards and other sports collectibles at Rivercenter mall.

Sean Elliott, who played 11 of his 12 seasons with the Spurs and was part of the team’s first championship in 1999, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he’s used to seeing Horry make “great plays and doing the little things but said he was surprised at what transpired at the end of Game 4.

Elliott, however, said he doesn’t believe that a few incidents in a series can define a team â€â€? or taint its reputation.

“I don’t think (the Spurs image has been) tarnished, he said. “I think it’s only based on a few games hereâ€â€?a bubble. You have to look at the whole body of work.

And Bowen, Elliott continued, is not dirty player, one who doesn’t want to win that way.

But Horry’s foul, he said, is different.

“You can’t get to the point where (you) cross the line, Elliott said. You can play aggressively, but in (this series) it’s crossed the line a few times.

John F. Murray, a sport performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla., said that perhaps the so-far intense series was a factor in Horry’s actions.

“Violence begets violence. Aggression begets aggression,� he said in a telephone interview. “This goes back to stupidity and aggression because of frustration. All (Horry) had to do was grab (Nash). Instead, he took a shot.

For die-hard Spurs fans like Lenoris Carpenter, 52, of San Antonio, seeing the Spurs as the aggressor is a relief, he said.

they needed to be rough, Carpenter said. We’ve been called soft all year and now that we’re roughing up players we’re the bad guys. This is playoff basketball. We didn’t get three championships for nothing.
Watch next year, he continued. They’re going to call the (Spurs) soft tacos. Maybe soft asoodles.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.