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Udonis Haslem and his Mouth Guard

4/24/2006

The extra game suspension of Udonis Haslem is certainly a blow to Miami.

Haslem swears he did not intentionally throw the mouthpiece at the referee Joey Crawford. This is from CBS4.com:

“It was not my intention to throw it at him, but it bounced in his direction,'' Haslem said. ``…. I can see how Joey would think I was throwing it at him. But I would never approach an official, put my hands on an official or throw anything at an official.”

Here's where you can see good, clear, online video of the incident.

It's actually believable to me that Haslem didn't intend to throw it at the referee. It's also believable to me that he wanted to do something to show that he was really pissed off, happened to be looking at the referee and mad at the referee, and well... whoops. These things tend to turn out badly when you're all pissed off.

I have heard Haslem's a good guy, for what it's worth, and you have to respect him for taking less money to stay with the team he liked last summer.

As for the punishment, no doubt the NBA hasn't forgotten that Haslem was involved in a hot-button situation late in the regular season (which, interestingly, also involved his mouthpiece). The NBA, I believe, is intent on banishing any chance at every having another "Auburn Hills." As Chris Perkins tells it in the Palm Beach Post:

Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal got tangled up after Haslem grabbed a rebound under the Pacers' basket. With Haslem backing into O'Neal and O'Neal inadvertantly hooking Haslem, the two started glaring before Haslem lost his cool.

"He looked me in the eye and when you look me in the eye I look back,'' Haslem said. "It's cool to look somebody in the eye and chest you up in the middle of the court. Nobody is going to let you fight there.''

Haslem, with his mouthpiece dangling, started shouting and had to be restrained by Pacers assistant Chuck Person. Haslem said later he has not forgotten a play last season in which Jermaine O'Neal pulled down Haslem by the neck.

"I don't know when he became tough,'' Jermaine O'Neal said. "But all of a sudden he became tough. It's in his best interest to concentrate on getting a rebound and be quiet.''

Meanwhile, Shaquille O'Neal entered the scrum and had a chokehold on Jermaine O'Neal.

"I knew they were going to be in there scrapping to fight,'' Shaq said. "I just didn't want it to get into an ugly situation.''

Something the Pacers are as familiar with as any team in the league. With thoughts of Indiana's brawl with the Pistons 16 months ago likely racing through their minds, the capacity crowd reacted loudly and angrily, even more so when it was announced that Haslem was assessed an offensive foul in addition to both players being given technical fouls.

Haslem was not too pleased, either, and after arguing the call he was assessed a second technical, meaning an automatic ejection. On his way off the court, Haslem removed his jersey and tossed it back onto the floor.

Jermaine O'Neal remained calm during the scrum but started shouting at fans and motioning to the court after the players were separated. Jermaine was suspended 15 games last season for his part in the melee in Detroit, partly for charging a fan who had come onto the court and punching him in the face.