The blogosphere and message boards are hopping today with news that Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace suffered a broken rib and collapsed lung in a collision with Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum last night.
After 21 years of covering the NBA, I think I know the difference between rugged and dirty.
What Andrew Bynum did to Gerald Wallace Tuesday was dirty.
Bynum, a gigantic athlete for the Los Angeles Lakers, threw a blatant elbw and hip-check to keep Wallace from reaching the basket in the fourth quarter. I get it that every play in that quarter mattered – it did go to overtime, after all – but there were many things Bynum could have done to avert Wallace dunking. Most of them would not have involved Wallace going to the hospital.
Brian Kamenetzky of the Los Angeles Times asks: “Should Bynum be subject to disciplinary action from the league, and should the fact that Wallace was injured- he’s in the hospital with a punctured lung and a broken rib- influence the outcome?”
There was no effort at all to play the ball. When I played hockey growing up, as a defenseman I used that move all the time on forwards rushing the net who had a step… and it wasn’t legal there, either. If the league decided that was worth a game on the sidelines, honestly, I wouldn’t argue. (There are probably fouls out there that are equally worthy that won’t bring a suspension, but I’m not writing about consistency from the disciplinary wing of NBA HQ, just whether or not Bynum’s foul seems bad enough to warrant some sort of action. “What about ______?!?!?!” may be a good discussion, but it’s a different argument that can be played endlessly and distracts from the basic question of the individual play.)
As to the second point, should the resulting injury play into any decision? I think so. If a guy gets hurt on a dangerous, reckless play that goes beyond the scope of normal action, than yes, the severity of injury can be a factor.
Kamanetzy goes on to make a pretty interesting analogy involving intent to harm. Definitely worth a read.
SLAM has video of the incident:
There’s no question that the play merited a flagrant foul penalty. Here’s the definition of a flagrant foul via NBA.com:
Section IV–Flagrant Foul
a. If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul–penalty (1) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team.
Shaquille O’Neal was accessed a flagrant foul penalty 2 and ejected after this foul on Rodney Stuckey earlier this season:
After the game, official Ken Mauer explained the call:
“We got together and we felt — first of all, a flagrant two has to have a wind-up and a follow through and be not only unnecessary, but we feel it’s excessive,” Mauer said. “We thought it followed all three of those. We felt he winded up. He hit him. He then pulled him down, that’s the follow through. We felt after reviewing it that it was more than necessary. We felt it was excessive.”
Was Bynum’s foul more severe than O’Neal’s? Bynum’s shot on Wallace was unnecessary, but it wasn’t excessive. Bynum didn’t “wind up” nor did he “follow through” when making contact with Wallace. Stuckey walked away. Wallace had to be taken to the hospital. I hate to say it, but those are the breaks of the game.
Shaq was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing an official and failing to leave the court in a timely fashion, but avoided suspension. With that decision, the NBA established the precedent for flagrant foul suspensions this season. Bynum’s foul on Wallace doesn’t even warrant an upgrade to a flagrant-2. The fact that Wallace was injured on the play should have no influence on the league’s decision.