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.