Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2009 [Print without images]

Saturday, May 9, 2009
Perkins off hook; Artest foul flagrant-1

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

Orlando, Fla. -- Kendrick Perkins and the Boston Celtics received some good news Saturday from the NBA, learning that Perkins will not be suspended for Game 4 of the Boston-Orlando series for hitting Orlando's Mickael Pietrus in the throat with an elbow.

Artest
Artest

Perkins
Perkins

An NBA spokesman said the Perkins play "stands as called," meaning Perkins will still be charged with one flagrant foul point (players are suspended a game when they reach four flagrant foul points) but will not have to sit out Sunday's game.

Also, the NBA downgraded Ron Artest's flagrant foul against Pau Gasol in Friday night's Lakers-Rockets game from a flagrant-2 to a flagrant-1.

NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said the Perkins-Pietrus play did not fit the criteria for a suspendable offense.

Perkins elbowed Pietrus early in the fourth quarter of Boston's 117-96 defeat.

"I was just trying to fight through a screen. It wasn't like I was trying to hurt him or elbow him in his mouth or nothing like that, I was just trying to fight through the screen and ended up hitting him," Perkins said.

NBA rules call for the automatic ejection of a player who strikes an opponent above the shoulders with an elbow or a punch, but Perkins was not tossed from the game and the play was not reviewed because it did not involve a flagrant-2 foul.

The NBA cited the elbow-above-the-shoulders rule in suspending Orlando's Dwight Howard for Game 6 of the Orlando-Philadelphia series after he struck Samuel Dalembert of the Sixers, and Kobe Bryant was retroactively assessed a flagrant-one foul for elbowing Artest in the upper chest in Game 2 of the Los Angeles-Houston series.

"Perkins committed the contact in the context of a basketball play, and the contact that he made was not hard enough to warrant something that would be suspendable. In other words, he didn't strike Pietrus, which is one of the criteria for a suspendable offense," Jackson told ESPN.com. "He didn't strike him. He had his forearm up in an effort to avoid the screen, and when he had his elbow up, Pietrus was also moving, so it's not like he struck Pietrus or swung at Pietrus.

"There are two criteria. One, unlike Howard, this was done in the context of a basketball play, what Kendrick Perkins was trying to do was avoid being screened. The second reason, if we're truly trying to explain it, is that the contact he delivered was not hard enough to warrant something that's suspendable or a flagrant foul penalty two. The rule says that you have an elbow that you strike a player with, you will get suspended. This was not hard enough contact, and it wasn't a strike," Jackson said.

The downgrading of Artest's foul means he will carry only one flagrant foul point into Game 4 of the Rockets-Lakers series.

"The Artest play did not fit the criteria of a flagrant-2 -- unnecessary and excessive. It was unnecessary, but certainly not excessive," Jackson said.

Artest said of the league's decision: "It don't mean nothing to me. It's not important. It doesn't matter to me."

Perkins, Rajon Rondo of Boston and Derek Fisher of Los Angeles are the only players currently carrying two flagrant foul points. Artest, Bryant, Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin of Denver and Jason Terry of Dallas each are carrying one flagrant foul point.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.