I've already written a few thoughts about Tom Ziller's initial reaction to the Nowitzki/Harpring kerfuffle. Here's Ziller's next crusade against the Jazz: A half-assed retraction, but mostly another opportunity to take a shot at our team. A taste:
It was silly to suggest that ruling had been wrong. (I will not, however, back down from my statement that Harpring is ugly. And also, the opinion at the bottom of this Jazz Notes post regarding Dirk's potential reputation as a dirty player for having the temerity to fight back against the extremely, eternally dirty Jazz is absurd and reeks of localist triumphalism.)
So, to sum up: Harpring is ugly, Ross Siler and Steve Luhm are irresponsible, ignorant homers, the entire Jazz roster is and always will be "extremely, eternally dirty," and Dirk Nowitzki, or anyone else, has carte blanche to "fight back" against Jazz players by hitting them in the face (even though they should be suspended later because rules are rules).
The rest of this latest salvo castigates AK for his admittedly egregious flop that drew an offensive foul against Dirk. "I daresay that without the flop, Dirk's fist doesn't come out to play," Ziller says. Oh, so now it IS in fact a fist he used? Because earlier you led us to believe Dirk only threw a gentle elbow in a kindly fashion to ward off the marauding hordes that are the Utah Jazz. And of course, it was all the fault of a bad flop that enraged poor Dirkie to such a degree that he had no choice but to HIT ANOTHER MAN IN THE FACE WITH HIS FIST.
Let me say this, and then I'll leave the topic alone:
First: This really shouldn't be getting that much attention (I suppose I'm as guilty of that as Ziller, but I feel the need to respond to attacks like this). It was simply a bad flop, and a stupid reaction to an uncalled foul, in a game that probably wasn't in doubt anyway, and in the long run won't matter much. And Dallas won without Dirk anyway. Whoop-de-doo. Having said that...
Make no mistake: Andrei flopped, horribly and obviously. This is, overall, a Bad Thing, and should be discouraged. I think that's indisputable. But it happens all the time, and AK is hardly the world's greatest offender in this regard. If there were an award for Biggest Flop Ever this might be up there, but Biggest Flop Ever is not the same as Biggest Flopper Ever (although Ziller makes a veiled implication that it is). If the flop deserves punishment, then punish away. But don't use an isolated incident as a golden opportunity to hate on another TEAM of players, most of whom don't employ this tactic. It exposes Ziller for his biases, and neuters his arguments. He cedes the moral high ground when he is so deliberately one-sided in his criticism.
Matt Harpring plays extremely physical basketball, with intent to annoy and enrage opponents. I prefer not to see such tactics employed. I think they are, overall, a Bad Thing. I dislike Harp's strategic hip checks and arm flails as much as I disliked the same behavior when Dennis Rodman performed it, or countless other players over the years (yes, Stockton and Malone included). Dirty it may be, but against the rules it is not. And when such physical play IS deemed against the rules, fouls are called, technicals can be assessed, etc. That's the calculated risk involved in employing such strategies.
Here's what IS against the rules: Hitting another player in the face with a closed fist, for any reason. I'm not saying Dirk wasn't provoked. I'm not saying he meant to do it. I'm not even saying Harpring didn't deserve it for being a pissant. But everyone who has ever set foot on a sporting field of any kind knows that you cannot allow your temper to get the best of you, no matter the situation. If you do, you will suffer the consequences.
To encourage retaliation in a manner incommensurate with the offense is illogical; in other words, let the reaction fit the crime. So a guy shoved you on a rebound and didn't get called for it. You want to retaliate? Learn to pull the same tricks, or make a physical basketball play and take your own chances at a foul. Taking a swing at a guy's head, whether intentional or not, whether deserving or not, whether provoked by a flop or not, can never be tolerated, let alone encouraged. The best players rise above that. (Arguably, the best players need not use such tactics at all.)
If you must label Matt Harpring a dirty player for this, then do so. But don't extrapolate it to players like Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer or Paul Millsap by calling the whole Jazz team "extremely, eternally dirty." It smacks of bitterness and irrational hatred; again, ceding the moral high ground.
I recognize I'm being overly defensive. Guilty as charged. And no disrespect meant to the Zilla Gorilla -- he's of course welcome to write whatever he wants, even as a Jazz hater, and his work on Sactown Royalty is stellar. (Love the scatterpoint charts, Z.) I guess I'm just sick of anyone and everyone, from blogs to mainstream media to TV announcers to other coaches to other fans, taking potshots at my team. I didn't realize that the 29 other NBA teams were paragons of clean, virtuous, Naismith-approved, Jimmy Chitwood-like athletic expression.
But hey -- we wouldn't be Jazz fans without our persecution complexes, right?