The NBA announced that Dwight Howard has been suspended for Game 6 of the Magic vs. Sixers series, for throwing an elbow that connected with Samuel Dalembert's head.
I feel that's the right call, after the fact, but remain concerned that the rulebook was ignored during the game.
I'm also convinced whatever happens with Rajon Rondo matters. After reading way too much about those fouls to the head (on a day when, let's be honest, every self-respecting blogger should be writing about the Blazers).
It's about coaching strategy. With the game on the line, and an opponent almost sure to score ... should I have my players hit the shooter in the head? The old idea was to wrap them up. But you have to be close and well positioned to do that. The head ... you can get to that from just about anywhere. And it freaks people out! Makes them miss free throws.
And it all comes down to whether or not that is a flagrant. If a blow to the head is a regular foul, then that's the best course of action in some situations. If a blow to the head is a flagrant, however, well then I'd rather my players didn't do that.
ESPN's Chris Sheridan says Rondo would only be suspended if his foul on Brad Miller is retroactively deemed to have been a Flagrant 2 (as opposed to the milder 1 category).
Sixer GM Ed Stefanski on WIP (via SportsRadioInterviews): "I have no idea what the league will do, but to me the rule is black and white, it's clear. What I saw was clear, I felt an elbow above the shoulders made contact on someone's head and it wasn't part of the play."
Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer: "Watching the play live, it looked like a tussle situation, and I was surprised to see Samuel Dalembert 'escape' with no technical foul alongside Dwight's. Watching the replay? Howard should have been thrown out. I know that talented big men are subject to all sorts of dirty tricks and unseen defensive maneuvers over the course of a game, and that Howard may have been fed up. No excuse. Howard could have knocked Dalembert out ... for good. Nobody wants to see the best player on either side thrown out in the opening minutes, but Howard deserved an ejection. And with that in place, the game felt a bit odd from that moment on. As if it shouldn't have counted. I should be above this, in the moment, in a vacuum, not bringing that context into my observations; but Howard's elbow tainted things. Especially as he went off for 24 and 24. Call me what you want for that, I understand that at some point you have to move on (and it's not as if I give a rip which side wins), but it was a strange game to watch with that early play in mind."
NBA rulebook: "A player, coach or trainer must be ejected for ... An elbow foul which makes contact above shoulder level."
David Stern to Dan Patrick (Insider) after the suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for leaving the bench during an altercation in the 2007 Western Conference Finals: "One of the things that I've watched over the years is we've tried so hard to squeeze fighting out of our game and potential injury out of our game. ... This is just an attempt to let the game get decided, you know, in a fair way, but subject to rules. And sports is the one place where you know the rules."
Commenter MG on the Sixer blog The 700 Level previews how this kind of thing gets handled if the League lets them play: "On the old Pistons or Knick teams, you can bet that Laimbeer/Salley or Oakley would have have hammered Howard on a legit but hard defensive foul on the other end."
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell, by e-mail: "Both Rondo and Howard delivered relatively dangerous blows to the head and a lot of people are saying they should get a one game suspension but, for Howard, I say 'Why not two?' He should have missed the majority of Game 5 anyway. Think back to the 2007 WCF. After Horry hip-checked Steve Nash and caused the scuffle that got Diaw and Stoudemire suspended, Horry received a two game suspension. But Horry's foul was far less dangerous than either of the two fouls Howard or Rondo committed."
A poll about whether or not Rajon Rondo's foul was flagrant. 75% of people, at the moment of this writing, don't think Rondo was going for the ball.
Matt McHale of the Bulls blog By the Horns: "It's funny. Back in March, Trevor Ariza hit Rudy Fernandez in the head from behind and got treated like some sort of deranged serial killer. But I guess that play was different because Rudy, who was airborne at the moment of contact, got injured, and because Ariza is bigger than Fernandez. In this case, Miller was the big man, and he's certainly not a threat to leave the ground unless launched from a very sturdy catapult. Oh, and the Ariza-Fernandez incident occurred during the regular season, whereas this is the postseason, which made Rondo's mugging of Miller just a good, hard playoff foul, right? Suuuuuure. And I'm sure that seeing double at the line didn't affect Miller's free throw shooting, either."
Another little video look at the Rondo play in question. What's your best guess as to the distance between Rajon Rondo's body, and the ball, at the time he starts his swing? Five feet? Six feet? He's a professional athlete, a master of spacial movement. Unless he thinks he has a five-foot long arm, that's not a play on the ball.
Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company: "You can get away with throwing an elbow if you whiff, (J.R. Smith did earlier this season when he threw a short jab elbow at Antoine Wright which sent Mark Cuban into a hissy fit) but if you make contact the NBA will probably take action. If they do nothing to Howard look for Phoenix fans to go nuts once again after they were so strict in the case of the Amare/Diaw leaving the bench rule. The real question is why doesn't anyone care that Chris Paul has thrown an elbow at Dahntay Jones and a punch at Chris Andersen?"
Writer Sherman Alexie, via e-mail: "Brad Miller is complaining about dirty play? Ha!"
Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog wonders if we don't have more important things to talk about: "Maybe it's the Clipper blogger in me, but I've always taken for granted that bad -- even fatal -- fortune will bestow itself on certain teams in certain situations. This reality is unsa
tisfying, but life presents certain inconveniences, and few of them are intentional. It's irrational to believe that every missed call is a conspiratorial stunt aimed against your team. Even worse, debating the governance of the game sort of defeats the point of basketball which, for me, has always been that it's a refuge from ... well ... debating the governance of life."
UPDATE: Before word of the suspension, Dwight Howard blogged about the incident: "I sure hope there isn't a suspension after what happened between me and Sam Dalembert in the first quarter of Tuesday's game. It isn't like I'm out there trying to hurt anybody. I think everybody knows how I play basketball. I'm just out there trying to win. That's got to be taken into consideration. I think when the league looks at the total picture of what's happened throughout this series that they will understand it's a physical game down in the paint. Really, it's been a dogfight down there the whole series. All I can do now is hope for the best, but I think it will be all good. Philly big man Reggie Evans even came up to me at the end of the game and said he was going to ask his G.M. to not go to the league about trying to get me suspended. I appreciate that from Reggie. Hopefully it will all work out for the best and I'll be out there ballin' for Game 6 on Thursday in Philly."
UPDATE: Good bunch of quotes from the Sixers.