Dwight Howard Suspension – Draws Spotlight on Playoff Fouls


Dwight Howard Suspension – Draws Spotlight on Playoff Fouls

While many felt the  elbow open hand from Dwight Howard that connected with Andrew Bogut’s face in Game 4 was worthy of being upgraded from a Flagrant One to a Flagrant Two, Rod Thorn, the President of Basketball Operations did not agree. In review it was obvious Andrew Bogut actually committed a foul prior to the play in question, and was in fact restricting Howard from running up court by holding his arm.

Perhaps escaping that foul upgrade put the spotlight on Howard who was assessed a Flagrant One for allowing his elbow to rise and connect with Andre Iguodala above the shoulders in the fourth quarter of the Rockets’ elimination (Game 5), May 27.  The league ruled Howard made unnecessary contact with Iggy’s head and dished out a one-game suspension. He’ll serve this to start the 2015-16 season. This foul was more likely frustration by Howard and in fairness the call was appropriate as is the suspension given his accumulated Flagrant point total.

In addition the technical fouls assessed to Bogut and Howard in Game 5 were rescinded. The significance of those calls was prior to the Iguodala foul, the fact Howard had picked up the technical would have meant Howard would miss the next game due to the number of technical fouls he’d accumulated in the playoffs.  Howard suffers a similar situation to what Shaquille O’Neal did during his playing days with the zebras predominantly overlooking the fouls.

It’s frustrating for Howard, but his opponents have issues trying to defend his sheer size, so they compensate via fouling.

Time and again we see players hitting his arms, holding his jersey or bodying him with what should be deemed fouls.

It must be hard to maintain discipline when you’re getting called for fouls for much less, but seemingly being fouled every time you touch the ball, yet not being rewarded.

The only players I’ve seen who do get extra consideration (or the benefit of the doubt if you will) are Blake Griffin and LeBron James.  Specifically James is allowed to push players off of him with a strong arm and rarely is called for the offensive foul. If you want a great example, go back and watch Cleveland in Minnesota and count how many times James pushes Andrew Wiggins off him, straight arms him and shoulders him all without foul calls.

In fact, the game in which Cleveland played in Houston, James got away with the same move the entire day, but all it took was one word from him post game regarding “the kick” (or more accurately the foot flail) to his groin area by James Harden to be assessed a one game suspension which was the only game he missed all season.

Meanwhile the next night Hassan Whiteside tackled Alex Len, wrestler style. Both players were tossed from the game with just 4:29 remaining in the third quarter, however  there was no extra suspension. So, Harden got a full game suspension following James’ “I’m sure the league will look at it” comment, but Alex Len and Hassan Whiteside can almost come to blows and not receive a full game suspension. You look at the 2 situations and tell me which is more grievous.

In fact, in review of the inconsistencies of the flagrant fouls being called this post season, there appears to be a trend. If you are playing LeBron James’ Cavaliers you need to be disciplined defensively and Steve Kerr should take note to tell all his players to be extremely cautious when it comes to retaliation fouls since key contributors are either getting injured or ejected versus the Cavs this post season.

Sure, it’s natural for teams to be biased about their players, but Cleveland has certainly been the team who are benefiting the most this post season by the flagrant rulings. I find it interesting the players who have been targeted by Cleveland all have been the particular fly in the ointment for them.

The Case Against Cleveland:

Round 1 versus Boston: Jae Crowder was proving to be a real defensive pest versus James and was giving Cleveland fits rebounding. And while J.R. Smith did receive a 2 game suspension for his closed fist sucker punch, what was more telling was prior to that incident Kendrick Perkins literally cheap shots Jae Crowder with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.

The Smith sucker punch comes just minutes later at 10:24 of the third quarter. It certainly appears Crowder was a marked man given Perkins cheap shot and punch were unsolicited and the blind side punch from J.R. Smith was given to finish the business. Since the 2 incidences occurred within a matter of 3:23 it’s hard to reason the intent was to do more than send a simple message.

Round 2 versus Bulls: Taj Gibson was on fire so enter Matthew Dellavedova with the scissor wrap on his legs to hold him in place. Gibson aggressively kicks to remove his leg and is given a Flagrant 2. With Pau Gasol already out injured it gives Cleveland a huge advantage. The series was tied 2 games all when Gibson was ejected and coincidentally the previous game the refs chose to ignore Blatt walking onto the court to call a time-out allowing James to go the full distance of the court and score the game winning bucket.

Eastern Conference Semi Finals versus Hawks:

Game 1: Coming into the Eastern Conference Finals DeMarre Carroll was the Hawks leading scorer and also their best defender. When you watch the play where he is injured you see James jumps into Carroll. I’m not sure why he jumps the way he does if it’s not to achieve direct contact. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it certainly seems purposeful. Carroll never fully recovers to play at 100%.

Game 2: Though Kyle Korver had not been hitting his 3-pointer with the same accuracy he did in the regular season, he started to come around in the first game hitting 50% and had 12 points when the scrappy Matthew Dellavedova dove for a ball and rolled onto Korver’s ankle. The injury took him out of the series and required subsequent surgery to Korver’s ankle. At the time of this injury not much was made of Dellavedova’s dive for the ball, but closer examination of the replay (especially the view with Korver head on shows the Cavalier point guard turning his body almost 90 degrees to come into contact with Korver.

Game 3:

Prior to the first half Al Horford had scored 14 points and grabbed 4 rebounds and was spearheading the Hawks toward a strong performance and possible win…. Atlanta was leading 49-48 when this happened:

The Aussie Instigator?

Granted Horford has Dellavedova’s arm tied up, but watch after he goes down how he leans his upper body and head back towards Horford. I’m sure Cavs’ fans see it one way and Hawks’ fans another, but I’m completely unbiased and from my viewpoint it’s obvious Horford has intentions to administer a shot, but it’s also clear Matthew Dellavedova throws his body with extra emphasis backwards. When you look at the Korver incident beside this one it appears he isn’t being aggressive, rather that he’s positioning his body to roll/hit into the Hawks’ players legs.

Plus this is his third incident in this playoffs alone. It definitely calls to mind the adage… “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!”

Is it simply coincidence the player Dellavedova is involved with happens to the be the key player in that game who is creating issues for Cleveland? So, this whole observation that he’s playing with aggression isn’t registering for me…

The other factor is the players he is involved with range from a center (Al Horford), a power forward (Taj Gibson) and a guard (Kyle Korver). In other words we can’t even isolate the situation to Dellavedova playing his position as only one of the players in question is a guard.

Regardless of Dellavedova and his team’s antics the calls and controversy surrounding them highlights for me the real issue:  the inconsistencies in how these foul calls are being assessed and moreover who seems to be the repeat benefactor.

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  • Coincidentally, I’ve noticed most of these ejections have been coming to the opponents of Cleveland as first Taj Gibson was assessed a Flagrant One and tossed from the Bulls game in which the Bulls other power forward Pau Gasol was already on the DL.

    That specific play was (in this writer’s opinion) ridiculous because it was spurred on by instigator Matthew Dellavedova who scissor wrapped his legs around Gibson’s rendering him stuck in place.

    Gibson was simply trying to remove his leg and the refs felt he did so with too much vigor. I ask you, why was it Dellavedova wasn’t also thrown out or assessed a flagrant as he was the reason Gibson made the overt gesture in the first place.

    The fact the league assessed a technical on Dellavedova the next day did nothing to help Chicago.

    The Cavalier Benefit:

    Also notable was the refs decided to turn away when Cavalier coach David Blatt walked onto the court to call a time-out which should have been an immediate technical foul call on the Cav’s, instead the zebra’s chose to ignore him and let LeBron James run the full length of the court and get up the game winning basket. That’s two games where referee calls affected the outcome of games in a series the Bulls were leading 2-1, but ended up losing. I wonder if those calls aren’t made if we are talking about a Golden State versus Chicago series.

    In this past series the Hawks were playing well in Game 3 with Al Horford specifically on fire in the first half of Game 3… Enter instigator Matthew Dellavedova again who got entangled with Horford and seemingly fell down because Al was pulling on his arm. Horford took exception with the vigor in which Dellavedova rolled back and gave him an elbow. Scuttlebutt is the Hawks felt Dellavedova was attempting to take shots at the players knees, ankles and basically doing things that could injure them. Was Horford right for taking the shot? Well no, but you can also understand the frustration the Hawks were feeling having already lost Kyle Korver by an apparent “normal” dive by Dellavedova for a loose ball.

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    Suffice to say every team will call an overly aggressive play by their own teammate as just an aggressive play (see LeBron James re: Dellavedova) yet will call a play of the same ilk a cheap shot (see James calling Kelly Olynyk‘s play on Kevin Love “a non-basketball play”).

    Looking at the play with Love, he actually was holding Olynyk the previous play the exact same way Olynyk was holding his arm in the play he was injured. Flash forward to the Horford play and it’s not much different in terms of the 2 players holding each others’ arms.

    Bottom line, the league does need to look at the consistency of how they rule on techs and flagrant fouls. With Secaucus being implemented this season it was thought the situation would improve.

    But, I ask you if that’s the case why was James Harden doled out a one game suspension for his


    flail towards LeBron James groin but Hassan Whiteside who tackled a player not deemed as dire or awarded a Flagrant?

    How Will The Apparent Cleveland Bias Effect the Finals?

    Maybe LeBron James has earned the clout to make the calls in the league and I’ll be watching the Finals with a keen eye to whether Dellavedova is involved in another injury or opponent being assessed a flagrant. Certainly Bogut, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli won’t just take the cheap shot plays with a grain of salt. Each of those players are tough nosed and will respond in kind. In fact, keep an eye in Game 1 for one of the aforementioned players to level a hard screen on Dellavedova early to send a message. And, if Matthew tries to dive for a ball anywhere near Curry’s feet (read: his previously temperamental ankles) watch for a strong message to be delivered immediately.

    What Gibson, Horford and even Howard did was all in response to being held or frustrated, but their response was too dramatic. The smart thing to do is to wait for a later play to get your point across. I remember Charles Barkley and Shaq talking about this one night on Game Time. They said there were certain players who would constantly take cheap shots, so they would wait for a rebound and instead of going for the board they would deliver a hard elbow to the ribs as the opponent went up for the board. They sent their message away from the original indiscretion and still got their point across.

    Bottom line, it’s time the league do something regarding this apparent bias or the NBA will start to resemble the NFL which doesn’t have the best track record for unbiased calls. Let’s see if the finals can play out without any incident of the nature I’ve outlined above.

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