Monday, May 9, 2011

Why No Talk of Suspension?

After turning the ball over in the third quarter of Saturday night's game, a perhaps frustrated Dwayne Wade of the Heat proceeded to (i) grab Rajon Rondo and (ii) swing his legs under him, while throwing Rondo to the ground. It's Rondo's dislocated elbow that has gotten all the attention (with the video -- rated at least PG-13 -- here.)

Rondo got hurt on the play. Although he came back into the game, it's unclear whether he will be able to play tonight, in an important Game Four, and his one-armed effectiveness is definitely at issue.

Was Wade intended to hurt Rondo? It's clear that he intended to foul the Boston point guard, mostly like to prevent the kind of break-away that occurred later (after Rondo returned) off of a comatose Chris Bosh. (Although as Jeff Van Gundy notes on the telecast "the ball was already out of bounds.")

Moreover, it was not Wade's first foul, nor first overtly-aggressive play of the day, or the series.

In addition, the Heat themselves, doth protest too much after the game. Here's Wade: "We play this game as competitors..You never want to see anyone get hurt, no matter what it is, what kind of injury it is. Kudos for him for coming back." (emphasis added)

Wade yesterday: “It’s a physical game, the game of basketball is a physical game. I’m not a dirty player, it’s physical. Everyone falls to the ground, everyone gets hurt, people get up.”

Here's teammate LeBron James: "You definite don’t want to see anyone have freak injuries. The competitors that we all are, us against Boston, you definitely don’t want to see nothing like that happen. Injuries aside, you hope the best for him. You hope that it’s not as bad as it looked. You hope it’s not something that affects him long term."

Finally, Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra: “I’m not answering questions about that. I’m done with that. Moving on....It looked like a normal contact foul...[Rondo] just landed on it wrong. Those things happen. There was a lot of contact. Some of the plays were a lot more physical than that, where guys didn’t get hurt. Those are tough plays."

No flagrant foul was called on the play by the officials at the game. However, the NBA rule book permits the League Office to post-facto assess fouls as "Flagrant-1" or "Flagrant-2" fouls after the fact, making its assessment on factors including:

1. The severity of the contact;

2. Whether or not the player was making a legitimate basketball play (e.g., whether a player is making a legitimate effort to block a shot; note, however, that a foul committed during a block attempt can still be considered flagrant if other criteria are present such as recklessness and hard contact to the head);

3. Whether, on a foul committed with a player's arm or hand, the fouling player wound up and/or followed through after making contact;

4. The potential for injury resulting from contact (e.g., a blow to the head and a foul committed while a player is in a vulnerable position);

5. The severity of any injury suffered by the offended player; and

6. The outcome of the contact (e.g., whether it led to an altercation).

In the NHL, the players on the ice would tell an observer whether the foul (or hit, in hockey) was seen as a clean but unfortunate injury, or something more sinis In baseball, we'd know the next time Wade came to the plate.

With no fighting, no beanballs, and no true enforcers in a post-Pacers NBA, the retribution -- if required by the Code of the Game -- will be more subtle. Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, perhaps already anticipating a tough-guy response from some of his players (mostly likely Kevin Garnett), tried to defuse the tension: "I don’t know if it was a hard foul...Let’s put it like this: He didn’t intend to hurt Rondo. I don’t honestly believe that 99 percent of cases in our league that the player ever intends to hurt anybody but he did. It just happens."

Notwithstanding Doc, watch what happens when Wade goes to hole tonight.

This series is about to get a lot more physical.