I know it's been well-reported. I know it was all over twitter this morning and it's already old news that the New Orleans Hornets Jason Smith was suspended two games for his Flagrant Foul 2 on Blake Griffin last night. (Ken Berger has it here.) It's just that in the midst of all this Vinny Del Negro coaching hash and the fact that the Clippers lost their third game in a row last night, I think we are overlooking something that should not be overlooked. Smith's foul on Blake Griffin was reprehensible. It had nothing to do with basketball. It had nothing to do with sport. The rules are clear on this, Smith had no hope of getting in front of Griffin, so he attacked Griffin's physically. He didn't "tie him up". He didn't "go for the ball". He simply took Griffin out, like a linebacker knocking a receiver out of bounds. Wrong play. Wrong sport. Wrong on every level.
In the NBA there are no "automatic" suspensions for a flagrant foul. In the case of a flagrant 2 the player is immediately thrown out of the game. The refs, correctly, tossed Smith last night. Today, Stu Jackson, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA came down with a two game suspension for Smith. On the surface it seems appropriate. But, when you look a little harder, was it? Because once Jason Smith finished fouling Blake Griffin, more stuff happened, a lot more. First, Smith ran out the play and wound up five rows (?) in the stands. Following him were several Clipper players, looking ready to fight in retaliation for their fallen teammate. Fortunately, the Clippers kept their heads, and the refs and the Hornet's coach, Monty Williams were all over it. Williams went in the stands himself and ordered Smith and the other Hornets back to the bench. Fortunately for everyone the players followed orders.
But Smith didn't let things lie. He applauded himself, then egged on the Hornets crowd, who cheered him on. He left the floor only after a lengthy video review by the referees. When he did leave the floor he could clearly be seen by TV cameras high-fiving fans and accepting congratulations from the crowd. Later, according to Berger, Smith apologized to Griffin. And today, of course, the league slapped him with a two game suspension. But Jason Smith is lucky. He's lucky a Clipper player didn't go after him. He's lucky the altercation didn't escalate. Jason Smith and the entire Hornets team got away with one. The NBA got away with one.
Now, I'm a Clipper fan, and maybe this is homerism. Maybe this is a product of the resentment other NBA teams feel for Griffin or the "Lob City" Clippers. Doesn't matter. There's simply no place for it, because this could have been much worse. This could have been a disaster. This could have been a return to one of those regrettable scenes we witnessed a few years ago in Auburn Hills or Madison Square Garden. By slapping Jason Smith on the wrist with a two game suspension, what exactly is the NBA saying?