ATLANTA -- Bob Sura didn't make any pretense about it.
Urged on by his teammates in a blowout game, the Atlanta Hawks'
journeyman guard intentionally missed a layup just before the
buzzer so he could get the rebound and make his small mark in
Sura was trying to become the first NBA player in seven years
with three straight triple-doubles. The game was essentially over.
What the heck?
The NBA didn't see it that way. Less than 24 hours after Sura's
bit of self-gratification, the league ruled Tuesday that he
wouldn't be rewarded for intentionally missing a shot.
The field goal attempt was taken away, which wiped out the
rebound. Sura was left with 22 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds
-- not 10 -- in the Hawks' 129-107 victory over the New Jersey Nets
on Monday night.
So much for having three straight games with double figures in
scoring, rebounding and assists -- a feat last accomplished by Grant
Hill in 1997.
After flying to Boston for Atlanta's regular-season finale
Wednesday night, Sura issued a statement through a team spokesman.
"I'm disappointed that my attempt to turn my third
triple-double caused so much controversy," he said. "It was never
my intention to make a mockery of our sport and to take any
attention away from our huge win over the Nets. If anyone was
offended by my actions, I sincerely apologize."
Sura's motives didn't seem all that sinister -- "it was kind of
a reaction thing," he said after the game -- but he joined the
growing list of players and coaches who have resorted to
underhanded tactics in an attempt to pad individual stats.
Ricky Davis, then with Cleveland, took matters to the extreme last season when he intentionally missed a shot at the wrong basket, with the idea of getting his own rebound and finishing off the first triple-double of his career.
It didn't work. The NBA said it wouldn't have mattered anyway -- there's a rule against trying to score for the opposing team. As it was, Davis was fined by his own team and roundly condemned for his blatant attempt at personal glory.
Davis wasn't the first. Six years ago, Connecticut women's basketball star Nykesha Sales, lost for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon, hobbled onto the court at the start of a game to make an uncontested layup that gave her the school scoring record.
In January 2002, Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre appeared to take a dive so New York Giants defender Michael Strahan could set the single-season sack record. Both players denied they were in cahoots.
And last November, a high school quarterback in Illinois, Nate Haasis, asked officials to erase a record-setting pass because his coach made a deal with the opposing team to allow a completion late in the game. The pass was disallowed and the coach resigned under pressure.
Michael Sachs, a sports psychologist at Temple University, praised Sura for apologizing and the NBA for striking the shady accomplishment from the record books.
"It's a good sign that this it not something we just accept as a matter of course," Sachs said. "There's still sportsmanship involved. There's still a sense of fair play and doing things the right way that people are concerned about."
But Bob Troutwine, a personnel and coaching consultant for several pro football teams, said it's not necessarily harmful when players focus on personal achievements.
In fact, it can be good for the psyche of the whole team -- especially a team such as the Hawks, which will miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
"It's uplifting to not only the individual, but the team," said Troutwine, who is based in Kansas City, Mo. "It can energize a team. I can understand the internal reasons why a coach would want a player to do that."
The NBA's basketball operation department made the decision not to count Sura's rebound.
"I don't know if there are any messages in this," said Brian McIntrye, a league spokesman. "We saw something that needed to be corrected, so we made the correction."
The NBA cited a rule that states, "A field goal attempt is a player's attempt to shoot the ball into the basket for a field goal."
Because Sura wasn't trying to make the shot, he shouldn't get credit for a field goal attempted. Therefore, no rebound, the NBA said.
In the final minutes, Sura's teammates kept pumping up shots, hoping to give him a legitimate chance at the 10th rebound. Unfortunately, they made most of them -- the Hawks shot 58 percent
in the game, including 17-of-25 on 3-pointers -- and it didn't look as if he would get the chance.
Then, with the final seconds ticking off, reserve center Michael Bradley tossed the ball the length of the floor to Sura, who was uncontested under the basket. He missed the shot, grabbed the
rebound and stood there grinning as the horn sounded.
Sura joked that the shot slipped out of his hands, but he made it clear that the miss had a purpose -- and was on purpose.
"All the guys on the team were screaming at me to do it," he said. "I just did it."
The Nets didn't seem too upset about Sura's intentional miss, though Kenyon Martin declined comment and Jason Kidd, the NBA's triple-double leader, said he's never had to resort to those sort of tactics.
"They've struggled this season," Richard Jefferson said. "If they can find a high point, go for it."