The rivalry between the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs has been one of tempered acrimony, suspensions and backhanded remarks on both sides for at least as long as the two have made their post-season match-ups, more or less, a yearly thing.
Mark Cuban unapologetically (and accurately) classified the Riverwalk as an “ugly--- muddy-watered thing.” He has called Tim Duncan a crybaby, and San Antonio fans the “rudest” in the league.
And that’s just our esteemed owner.
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It should come as no surprise that Erick Dampier
put out more or less a call to arms shortly after Monday’s Game Two loss, given the history of these teams, but, it being the playoffs, and a rivalry, the comments gained some steam.
Dampier insisted that he wasn’t aiming to harm anyone, before the usually reserved Dirk Nowitzki delivered an uncharacteristic, backhanded and all-too-predictable jab at Spurs defensive ace Bruce Bowen
in his defense of Dampier.
"Nobody's trying to hurt anybody and Damp certainly doesn't have the reputation of being a dirty player," said Nowitzki. "They got one, we don't."
This message may have been a bit more cryptic had Bruce Bowen not gained this reputation so decidedly over the past five years or so. Many (many) players and other insiders have said that he is the dirtiest player in the game. Defenders of Bowen said that his effectiveness, and reputation, is merely a result of the fact that Bowen’s tenacity outweighs his talent.
A case can be made for either side.
Steve Francis was injured in 2006 when he landed on Bowen’s foot coming down from a jump shot. And this is not an isolated incident. He has been accused of using this move intentionally by Isaiah Thomas
, Vince Carter and Ray Allen, just to name a few.
That said, Bowen has never been disciplined by the league. Most of Bowen’s criticism has come directly from those in the game, some of whom were not reserved in venturing into polemics against the former journeyman. Isaiah Thomas, while still coach/ GM of the Knicks, said of Bowen’s patented move, "I'd beat the --- out of somebody. Really, I would --- murder them. ... There's certain things you don't do."
At the base of this controversy is intention, which is probably why no conclusive evidence of Bowen being ‘dirty’ by nature has ever surfaced. There’s simply no way to know what Bowen’s intentions are on any given play.
But right or wrong, when Nowitzki made the jab, he joined a strong constituency of players who feel the exact same way; this isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff.
In the end, this is merely another chapter in this increasingly heated rivalry. Dallas and San Antonio are quick to tell anyone who will listen of the great respect they have for one another.
However, there is certainly a palpable level of semi-friendly disdain between the two as well. If Dirk wishes to separate his comments from those of the past, he must do what few (maybe none) of his complaining predecessors did; beat the San Antonio Spurs.
(And, for the record, the water in the River Walk is disgusting. This is fact. And it kind of smells and the restaurants that line it are all (in my experience) terribly overpriced.)
Dallas and San Antonio will tip off at 7:30 CST, tonight in Dallas.