By Ben Golliver
A costumed Tim Duncan and Tony Parker at a Halloween party pointing fake guns at a man dressed up as referee Joey Crawford with a hangman's noose nearby. It's hard not to be at a loss for words.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that the NBA and the Spurs officially had "no comment" when shown the photo, which has drawn lots of reaction since commissioner David Stern fined San Antonio $250,000 after coach Gregg Popovich rested four players, including Duncan and Parker, during a nationally televised game against the Heat last Thursday.
It is unclear whether the picture might draw further disciplinary action from NBA commissioner David Stern, who last week fined the Spurs $250,000 for Popovich’s decision to send four key players -- including Duncan and Parker -- home early from a six-game road trip to rest.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who attended the Halloween party in question dressed as Zorro, said he hoped the photo would be taken for what it was -- a portrayal of a light-hearted moment in the middle of a private event. “It was Halloween,” Ginobili said. “If somebody dressed like Pop was there, I probably would have done the same thing with my little sword. I think it was a joke. It was very innocent.”
The gathering took place at a private residence just before the start of the regular season, which the Spurs opened on Halloween night in New Orleans.
The Spurs and Crawford have a long history, highlighted by a 2007 incident in which Crawford ejected Duncan for laughing on the bench and apparently challenged the future Hall of Famer to a fight. Duncan was fined for the incident and Crawford was suspended indefinitely by the NBA, although he was later reinstated.
Crawford, 61, has been an NBA official since 1977. Last week, he made headlines for high-stepping more than 20 feet to whistle a controversial block call during the fourth quarter of a tight game between the Lakers and Pacers.
This is a tight spot for Stern, who has already been criticized for overreaching with his harsh fine of the Spurs, with coaches and observers feeling as if he violated Popovich's airspace by fining the Spurs for strategically resting players. Here, given that the Halloween party was a private, non-NBA event, and the players seem to simply be horsing around, there's surely a strong developing sentiment that this is no big deal. Stern, though, has an obligation to protect his referees and the league is swift with fines whenever coaches or players are critical of the officials in postgame comments.
Does protecting Crawford and others, not to mention the integrity of the game, extend to slapping Duncan and Parker on the wrist for a private photo? Hopefully not, but I guess we'll find out soon enough. Photo via Deadspin.com