In one of the least surprising news stories of the year, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was fined $25,000 by the NBA for remarks he made directed towards the organization’s handling of the flagrant fouls and the suspensions that followed.
The Heat and Pacers had been involved in an insanely physical series, at least by today’s standards, and it spilled over in the Heat’s game 5 victory, where three flagrant fouls were given out.
The first occurred early on when Pacers stiff/forward Tyler Hansbrough threw a haymaker on a driving Dwyane Wade. Even though it can be argued that Hansbrough went for the ball, it’s tough to make an argument for that when Tyler is seen calmly walking off and giving a low-five to fellow stiff/forward Louis Amundson.
On the very next play, Heat forward/warrior Udonis Haslem decided to give Hansbrough some patented Carol City Justice:
Haslem was initially awarded a flagrant 2, which would have resulted in an automatic ejection, but was rescinded after the referees got together and lowered it to a flagrant 1.
Order was restored and the Heat went on to destroy the Indiana Pacers 115-83. It was a demoralizing loss for the Pacers, who also saw Danny Granger suffer a sprained ankle and David West hurt his knee. It would have been difficult to imagine the Pacers creating a 32-point swing in the span of two days and beating the Heat in game 6. Of course, that didn’t end up happening because that’s what happens when you lose by 32 points two days before.
However, the flagrant fouls weren’t quite done in game as Heat center/competitive eater Dexter Pittman also got in on the act. His victim would be Lance Stephenson, a rookie who thought it would be hilarious to do a choke sign directed towards LeBron James after a missed free throw in game 3. Juwan Howard confronted Stephenson prior to game 4 and it seemed that it would end there.
The video tells otherwise:
‘Big Pitt’ has obviously been spending too much time around Juwan Howard. Surprisingly, Pittman wasn’t ejected, either, even though he was caught winking a few moments after the hit. The hit was obviously a form of retaliation for the rookie’s foolish gestures and it definitely warranted a suspension.
The officials fudged up all three calls during the game, so it became up to the NBA to correct the calls. Instead, they also dropped the ball by suspending Haslem for one game and Pittman for three, while all Hansbrough received was an upgraded flagrant foul which meant dick.
Everything was wrong with how the officiating crew and the NBA handled the situation. First off, the officials allowed the game to get to the point where Haslem had to throw two forearms into the blank canvas that is Hansbrough’s face. If Tyler is ejected for throwing a haymaker on Wade and drawing blood, then Haslem isn’t playing the role of enforcer and decking the former Tar Heel star.
If Haslem gets suspended, then Hansbrough deserves to get suspended, too. The only reason Haslem ended up getting suspended and Tyler didn’t was because Hansbrough hid his hit better than Haslem, who didn’t attempt to make it a secret that he was going to rock the Pacers forward’s world.
Let’s use an example here: if somebody throws a rock at your head and your friend picks up the rock, walks over to the thrower and starts bashing him in the head with it, is it your friends fault? Haslem had no choice but to stick up for Dwyane Wade, who was constantly taking contact on every drive. It’s not Haslem’s fault that Hansbrough is throwing haymakers and Danny Granger is suddenly the new John Starks.
The Pittman suspension? Honestly thought he deserved more. The guy blatantly threw his forearm into someone’s throat and that’s two games worse than what Haslem did?
Spoelstra wasn’t pleased with the resulting suspensions. He made quite a few statements regarding the situation:
“The league does not have a problem with hard fouls on our two main guys. In nine games now, there’s been over a dozen hard fouls to the face, some of the tomahawk variety.”
I haven’t looked at enough video, but Spoelstra, whose first job with the Heat was as the team’s video coordinator, would be able to spot those occurrences.
Spoelstra went on:
“Some of them have drawn blood. They don’t have a problem with it, so we don’t have a problem with it. Our guys will continue to attack. They’ll play their game and we’ll focus on what we can control.”
The coach isn’t lying; there have been two players that have bled this series and both were wearing Heat uniforms. Haslem was the first victim after receiving an elbow, one that ended up needing nine stitches to close up, from Diana Taurasi and Wade became the second after the hit by Hansbrough.
The Pacers are an extremely physical team. They were in the top five in personal fouls per game in the regular season and made it a point at the beginning of the series that they were going to play physical with a Heat team they deemed as floppers. Vogel, who made the flopping comments, ended up being fined $15,000 by the NBA.
It became apparent how physical this team was after seeing Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose take a few hits courtesy of Tyler Hansbrough and former Pacer Jeff Foster.
Here’s the hit by Hansbrough:
Hey, now, that looks familiar, doesn’t it? Either Hansbrough is incredibly uncoordinated, really is headhunting or just doesn’t like athletic players who would shit on his life in one dunk.
Hopefully he learned his lesson.