Bruce Bowen Suspended

Remember yesterday we were complaining about Bruce Bowen apparently kicking Chris Paul?

The NBA has suspended Bowen for kicking Paul. (Or "striking him with his leg.") From a press release:

Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs has been suspended one game without pay for striking Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets with his leg, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident occurred following a foul call on Paul with 5:15 remaining in the third period of the Spurs' 100-75 loss to the Hornets on Wednesday, March 12 at New Orleans Arena. Bowen will serve his suspension tonight when the Spurs visit the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Bowen just played in his 500th consecutive game, the longest active streak in the NBA. Now that streak is over, thanks to this play.

More than almost any other NBA player I can think of, Bruce Bowen has a career that is a matter of perspective. On the one hand, he's a champion, a family guy, and a gentleman.

On the one hand, people just love that guy. And he's a great story! He's one of those few players who essentially did not make the league. He failed to get in through the front door. But he hung on and hung on, found a home, and has flourished as a hard worker, and feisty defender who played a big role on the closest thing we have to a dynasty these days.

If you are rooting for the Spurs, you love Bruce Bowen. He shuts down the other team's best player just about every darned night. And does he cross the line? Well, hell, a Spurs fan would say, it's his job to be right on that line. Not his fault if he's a little over once in a while.

Then there is the other crowd. (They email a lot!) Those people who have been watching this Bruce Bowen act for years -- all those "but I'm innocent!" appeals to referees -- and never bought it for one second. They think he is a cheap shot artist first and foremost, and what's more, they swear that once you tune into their way of thinking, you will never go back: because the evidence just keeps piling up.

Guys like this guy.

They see this little offense of his here, that one over there, and all those flying kicks, and the umpteen million moments where you wonder "was that a punch?" but nothing was called and the play rolls on. If you take all those together, you get the feeling that the story of Bruce Bowen might not be just a story of hard-nosed play.

It can start to seem like it's a story of a player determined to give his team an unfair advantage, through a series of often injurious and always crafty chops, kicks, undercuts, elbows, punches, and trips.

To "those people," that latter group, today is a great day. It's a great day in part because Bowen is getting suspended for the first time in years, and he's losing some of the glow of his most consecutive games streak.

But it's even better because this is the first indication that the decision-makers in the league office may have switched camps.

UPDATE: More slow-motion video of the play in question, which Spurs fans think exonerates Bowen (I'm unconvinced either way, what happens with that right knee?), but certainly indicates that Chris Paul is no angel here either.