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In flagrante dilecto

I figure there's nothing better to stir up some comments on this here non-playoff-team-blog than some second guessing of the NBA in it's handling of some recent on court situations.

First of all, it's getting rough out there people.  Elbows are flying, blood is flowing and guys are hitting the floor hard.  Time to break out one of my least favorite NBA cliches - that's playoff basketball.

But were you, like me, surprised that Dwight Howard was suspended for a game while Rajon Rondo was not?  For those that may have missed it, here's some video:

Brad Miller Slap and Dwight Howard Throwing Elbow's (via JerseyChaser106)

NOTE:  I apologize for the soundtrack - I usually take my sports highlights straight up - but I got both fouls on one YouTube this way, and I love a bargain.

Now, a conspiracy theorist might conclude that the NBA has a vested interest in helping Boston, with it's traditional and national following, while small-market Orlando is a less attractive team.  I'm sure there are many who believe that's exactly whay Stu Jackson was thinking when he handed down Howard's suspension while simply dismissing Rondo's head slap as a non-event.

Here's what Stu Jackson had to say about Rondo's foul:

In terms of criteria we use to evaluate a flagrant foul penalty 1, generally we like to consider whether or not there was a wind-up, an appropriate level of impact, and a follow through. And on this foul, we did not see a wind-up, nor did he follow through, so for that reason we're not going to upgrade this foul to a flagrant foul penalty 1. The initial play, in our mind, was on the ball -- an effort to try and make an attempt on the ball and take a foul that would prohibit a game-tying basket.

First of all... REALLY?  That was a play on the ball?  Does Rajon Rondo have some sort of impairment that doesn't allow him to disinguish between Brad Miller's head and a basketball?  Because he came not at all close to the basketball, and instead got a lot of Brad Millers face.

Secondly, what's with this wind-up and follow through stuff?  Anyone hear anything about a wind-up or a follow through from the league office before?  Ever?  Seems like these are age-old general criteria that Stu just made up.  Besides, I'm not sure how much of a wind up he wants to see.  Rondo doesn't really have Luis Tiant time in that situation.

So yeah, it seems fishy to me.  But I'm a different kind of cynic.  I don't see a pro-Boston conspiracy here.  I just see the league circling the wagons.  The NBA has an incredibly annoying habit of almost never copping to their mistakes.  They constantly tell us that refs are human, that nobody's perfect, and then when it's obvious that those non-prefect human refs make an obvious mistake, they invariably say "No, no, that was the correct call."  Final seconds of a two point game, Rondo gives a hard foul and actually draws blood - if the refs call a flagrant, it's two shots and the ball, and Chicago has a chance to win.  By not calling the flagrant foul on the court, the refs put the league office in the position of deciding whether or not they cost Chicago the game.  By concluding that it was not a flagrant foul, the NBA is simply covering their butt - "Yet again, we were right!  Who says we were right?  Why, we do of course!" 

Move along people, nothing to see here. 

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.