Thursday, April 29, 2010
Public enemy No. 1, Najera has job to do
By Jeff Caplan
SAN ANTONIO -- They won't be tossing roses at Eddie Najera's feet inside the AT&T Center tonight when the Dallas Mavericks enforcer checks into Game 6.
San Antonio might be Najera's adopted hometown -- he attended Cornerstone Christian School -- but the fans here will be ready to pounce after Najera's flagrant fouls in each of the last two games. He was called for a Flagrant 2 for a takedown of Manu Ginobili here in Game 4, and he raked Tony Parker across the face in Game 5 for a Flagrant 1, a call Najera said left him perplexed.
"I mean he is the one that created the contact," Najera said of the driving Parker. "Obviously, I felt his body on my chest and I just kind of dropped my arms. I wasn't even trying to get him at all, but obviously, that's what I don't understand, he created the contact."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle had barely utilized Najera in the first three games before desperately turning to him to start the fourth quarter of Game 4 for nothing more than a shot of adrenaline and hustle, areas the Mavs were sorely losing to the more determined Spurs. Najera lasted exactly 47 seconds before his arm caught Ginobili around the neck from behind and flung him backwards to the floor for the Flagrant 2 and automatic ejection.
Najera played 21 minutes in Game 5 and he'll likely have a similar role tonight, although San Antonio's public enemy No. 1 will have to be careful. He's one flagrant foul away from a league-mandated, one-game suspension. Of course, if the Mavs don't win it won't really matter.
His teammates don't see it stopping Najera from inflicting his typical physical style on the wary Spurs in a series that's grown increasily chippy.
"That's how Eddie's always been," center Brendan Haywood said. "We almost got into earlier this year because he fouled the hell out of Gilbert Arenas and I was saying something to him. That's Eddie's game. I think he's just a hard-nosed, tough player and that's just who he his."