A Daily Babble Production
Shocking as this will sound coming from a Celtics fan, the NBA played its cards right with regard to the respective statuses of Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo for their teams' games tonight.
Disclaimer up front: There are several threads running in our forums and the front page from yesterday on whether Rondo should have received a flagrant foul for his hit on Brad Miller on Tuesday night. Those looking to continue beating that particular issue to death may prefer to visit those discussions. I found it mildly surprising that Rondo did not receive a flagrant foul and a fine, and I'm not sure how I would have ruled had it been my call. That's all I've got to say on that subject.
However, regardless of whether Rondo should have been charged with a flagrant, a distinction exists between his conduct and that of Dwight Howard when it comes to extra disciplinary action.
Rajon Rondo made a play, albeit a reckless one, that came in the context of the basketball game. He took a swipe at Brad Miller in an effort to make an effective defensive play, either perhaps by going for the ball or perhaps in knowing that contact to Miller would force him to make two free throws rather than a lay-up. I'm no psychologist and don't profess to know the exact nature of Rondo's goal. Intent means nothing with regard to the in-game ruling of a flagrant foul. But for penalties after that, it seems reasonable to take into account the circumstances of the situation and thus to believe that he was looking solely to prevent a basket and not to injure or lash out at Miller out of frustration.
[Aside: When I called for a suspension for Trevor Ariza for a flagrant foul on Rudy Fernandez back in March, I cited the dangers of taking a wind-up swing at or near the head of an airborne player from behind. Perhaps I borrowed Tom Heinsohn's glasses while watching the clips of the plays, but it remains my contention that Ariza took a bigger wind-up and came more from behind when he swung his arm than Rondo did on his play.]
Back to the issue of Rondo and Howard: While Rondo's act was at least an effort at something along the lines of a basketball play and featured no malice, Howard's was not and did not. After getting tangled up with Samuel Dalembert under the basket, Howard responded with an elbow to Dalembert's head as the play went the other way. There is zero place for that on a basketball court. There is a reason why the NBA rulebook groups punching, fighting, and shoulder-level-and-above elbows together: They are all forms of extracurricular violence with no relevance to the game.
Ray Allen should have been suspended for his elbow below the belt of Anderson Varejao two and a half weeks ago, and he was. What D-12 did was no better.
Rajon Rondo made a reckless play that, depending on who you root for, might cross the line into being dirty. Dwight Howard committed an act for the sole purpose of harming another man outside the construct of the game. Good on the NBA for suspending the latter but not the former.