Rondo’s foul and other thoughts

not a flagrant

The ruling is in: NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson believes that Rondo’s ear-boxing of Brad Miller was just a plain old foul. Said Stu: “We felt Rondo was making a basketball play and going for the ball after a blown defensive assignment by the Celtic team. In terms of the criteria that we use to evaluate a flagrant foul penalty one, generally we like to consider whether or not there was a windup, an appropriate level of impact and a follow-through. And with this foul, we didn’t see a windup, nor did he follow through. So for that reason we’re not going to upgrade this foul to a flagrant foul penalty one.”

Okay, while I will agree that there was no windup or follow-through, the “making a basketball play and going for the ball” part makes me wonder whether Jackson had access to the same pictures and video that the rest of the world has been discussing ad infinitum for the last day and a half. I mean, not only did Rondo clearly not make a play for the ball, he wasn’t even able to may a play on Miller’s arm. So based on the precedent set by this ruling, you can club an opponent in the head to prevent an easy bucket…as long as you don’t wind up or follow through on it. Gotcha, Stu. Thanks for clearing that up.

The ruling is a rather predictable cop out, considering that the league hates to admit when officials make huge, game-changing mistakes, especially in high-profile playoff games. David Stern would sooner confess to being the Batman than acknowledge that his referees sometimes err, or that those errors might actually swing the results of important games. For the record, Bill Simmons predicted this: “Should Rajon Rondo be suspending for Game 6 for raking Miller across the face? Yes. Because he admitted afterward that it was kinda, sorta intentional. But here’s why the league WON’T suspend him: The NBA would be admitting the officials blew that call. So, they’ll fine Rondo and admonish him in a statement, and that will be that. Gotta keep the illusion going that NBA referees don’t suck!”

Look, I’m not calling for a fine, or a suspension, or for a redo of the final two seconds of Game 5, or even an admission that, had the correct call been made, the game might have ended differently. I just want consistency. I simply want a league that has spent the last few years trying to outlaw blows to the head that can injure or endanger its players to stand by their supposed mission statement and say, “Oops, we goofed. Won’t let it happen again.” That’s it. Is that really too much to ask?

According to Stu Jackson: Yes.

However, you can probably expect closer officiating scrutiny in Game 6. Game 5 was edging close to “let ’em play” status. I doubt you’ll see that tonight. And I would guess that — after Miller suggested that the Celtics have been popping Bulls players in the head all series — that any further hand-to-head, elbow-to-head, or anything-else-to-head contact will be punished quickly and severely.

Rose versus Rondo: Hey, did you know that Rondo is averaging a triple-double (24.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 10.2 APG) for the series? Oh. Right. You don’t live under a rock, so of course you knew that already. But lost in all the “Rajon Rondo is the next great point guard” stories is the fact that Derrick Rose’s defense has been positively Steve Nash-like. His Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) for the playoffs is 112. That’s 10thworst on the team…ahead of only Ben Gordon (115) and Aaron Gray (also 115). Rose can’t stay in front of Rondo, and he struggles mightily to stay with him in transition. I bet there are times when Rondo feels like he’s playing in an empty gym.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Vinny Del Negro can’t seem to come up with any defensive schemes to pull Derrick’s fat out of the fire. But here’s my thing: If Rose can’t stop Rondo — and all indications are that he can’t — then he really, really needs to force Rondo to play some defense. Derrick has become way to tentative. I’m all for players letting the game come to them, but Rose absolutely HAS TO turn his aggressiveness dial to 11 in Game 6. (And Game 7, if it comes to that.)

Kirk Hinrich: More Bill Simmons, from the article I linked to above: “Played so well on both ends that I’m now moving him into that Jason Terry/Mo Williams “We got overpaid and teams were afraid to trade for us, and maybe we let it affect us a little, but we remained talented, and as soon as our situations turned a little and our teams improved, we made a comeback; now everyone feels absolutely stupid for not trading for us when they could have had us for 40 cents on the dollar” group. Hinrich makes $10 million this season and $26.5 million total over the next three. That’s not a fair price? How could the Blazers not make a run at him when they’re trotting out that hideous combo of Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez? This bugs me.”

I totally agree. Of course, I’ve been saying the same thing for months on this very blog. Now media peeps like Simmons are noticing that too. And so, as it happens, are the Celtics. Said Kendrick Perkins: “We first have to stop Kirk Hinrich. He just can’t keep coming in and hurting us and giving them a spark. We shut Kirk Hinrich down and we can close out the series.” So I guess we can expect some “Hinrich Rules” from the Celtics tonight.

Kendrick Perkins: In Game 5, Perkins became the first player with at least 19 rebounds and 7 blocks in a playoff game since Tim Duncan accomplished it against the Nets in Game 6 the 2003 NBA Finals. But do you know what makes that feat even more impressive? He managed to play 48 minutes and 20 seconds of super-aggressive — I’m talking elbows-flying, lookout-below aggressive — basketball without committing a single personal foul. That seems almost impossible. And mind you, Perk fouled out of Game 5. Hey, there’s no cookin’ like home cookin’. I have a feeling he’ll earn a few tweets in Chicago tonight.

Paul Pierce: I know Vinny kind of wrote Pierce’s game-breaking hot streak in Game 5’s overtime session as a great player hitting tough shots, but I’d be willing to bet good money that, should The Truth start heating up in Game 6, you’ll see the Bulls uses some trapping and double-teaming schemes on him.

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10 Responses to Rondo’s foul and other thoughts

  1. David G April 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    i can’t wait to see brad miller punch someone in the face

    WildYams April 30, 2009 at 5:08 pm #

    You know, just to be extra sure you can’t be nailed for the whole “winding up” thing, players should err on the side of caution and instead just grab a player by the face or throat from behind when they jump up for a layup or dunk. They should probably even use both hands to do so, since it’s virtually impossible to “wind up” with both arms at the same time. So if your man gets past you and looks like they’re about to dunk it, just grab him from behind by the head and yank: it’s the best way to ensure he doesn’t get the And-1 without risking a flagrant foul.

    Brad April 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    Hmm… Couple of things:

    Firstly, I don’t know if I like the whole Rondo-Miller-flagrant-foul-thing. The call honestly could have gone either way. And if Stu Jackson and Meatloaf agree that “two out of three ain’t bad!” then who are we to complain? In this case it went against our team and we are upset. However, would Boston be any less upset if the official calls a flagrant1, VDN subs in Ben, the Bulls make 2 free throws and get the ball back and WIN? Can you imagine the conspiracy theories? I would guess that officials would shy away from such a huge game changing call. BM (hehe) still got his free throws and he could have tied up the game. We all need to move on because the fact remains that the Bulls lost and the Celtics won that game based on their actions during the previous 4 quarters and 4 minutes, 56 seconds.

    Secondly, I’m feeling David Stern’s vibe these days. As players who are about to be traded are fond of saying, “This is a business.” David Stern would never be mistaken for an NBA player, soooo …that must make him a businessman! And he is an excellent one at that. The NBA is entertaining. It is competitive. It has huge personalities both on and off the court. It is NOT supposed to be the supreme court and it is not called on to be perfectly just in all of its actions. It only needs to seem fair so that none of its customers feel overly outraged. But any businessman will admit to working all the angles behind the scenes to provide the most compelling product. Is that so wrong? Would you rather have Vince McMahon?

    Pete April 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm #

    Is Luol Deng better yet?

    Can Phil Jackson coach the Bulls, just for tonight?

    Alec April 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm #

    “We first have to stop Kirk Hinrich. He just can’t keep coming in and hurting us and giving them a spark. We shut Kirk Hinrich down and we can close out the series.”

    Uh oh, sounds like Kirk had better strap on a helmet before coming into the game. Or are you only allowed to savage other players’ heads during the closing seconds of the game? Since the rulebook has been thrown out, I’m a little confused about precisely when smacking a guy hard enough to require stitches is just a regular foul. Excuse me, I meant just another “playoff foul”.

    Ben April 30, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    So how come we are only focusing on this and not the fact that the official missed Ben Gordon stepping out of bounds before his 3 pt attempt that Tony Allen fouled him on? That was likely just as crucial a call and definitely more black and white then the gray area involved in making a flagrant foul call on Rondo. Officials aren’t perfect and they never will be so you’re just going to have to deal with it.

    Matt McHale April 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    David G — I’m not sure I want to see a punch…but I wouldn’t be against a hard but meaningful (and non-dirty) foul, like, say, on a drive to the hoop.

    WildYams — I’m forwarding that suggestion to Brad Miller.

    Brad — You certainly have a point about Stern. He runs the NBA like a business, and he’s done a pretty good job (even though the league is in serious financial trouble right now). He surely feels this particular ruling is in the league’s best interest, and maybe it is, since it might help keep the casual fan from going all “conspiracy theorist.”

    Pete — No on Luol, and, unfortunately, no on Phil as well. :(

    Alec — Forget the helmet, I want Kirk covered in at least a thousand square feet of bubble wrap.

    Ben — I suppose it’s because that Gordon play was less visible, it didn’t happen at the end of a game, it didn’t result in someone bleeding from the mouth and almost losing a tooth, etc. I mean, in the final analysis, you could pick over any game and find countless examples of fouls that should or should not have been called, but relatively few truly controversial end-of-game calls that had as many dramatic elements as the Rondo foul.

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