NBA Talking Heads Don’t Understand Flagrant Fouls

So I was listening to the most recent Jalen Rose Podcast via the Grantland Network this morning, and they (Jalen Rose and host David Jacoby) decided to discuss the recent trangressions of the Pacers/Heat playoff series.  Most notable the increasingly physical play.  If you are not aware as to what I am speaking of, here is a reminder:

Now.  In realtime, during the game, all those fouls were assessed as flagrant ones.  Meaning two shots and the ball.  Afterwards, the league upgraded all three fouls to flagrant twos (automatic ejections during the game).  Udonis Haslem is now suspended for game six, and Dexter Pittman has been suspended for three games.  Tyler Hansbrough has not been suspended.

Jalen Rose felt (and I have read many other reputable sports opinions agreeing with his sentiments) that the Haslem and Hansbrough fouls were similar, and should be treated as such.  This is utter nonsense.

Here is the official NBA rulebook excerpt concerning flagrant fouls:

There are two types of Flagrant Fouls, as follows:

Flagrant “1” (FFP1) – unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent. The opposing team is awarded two (2) free throws and possession.

Flagrant “2” (FFP2) – unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. The opposing team is awarded two (2) free throws and possession and the player committing the foul is automatically ejected.

Obviously, the one and only distinction between a flagrant one and flagrant two foul (according to the rulebook) is the word “excessive”.  However, there are two unwritten amendments to these rules that the NBA gives creedance to.  1) Any contact above the shoulders gives the referees cause to lean heavily towards levying a flagrant two foul on the perpetrator (much like in the NFL with helmet-to-helmet contact and unnecessary roughness penalties), and 2) as you might hear commentators mention, a player must make a legitimate “play on the ball”.  That is, THE SOLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HASLEM AND HANSBROUGH FOULS.

This is blindingly obvious to me.  Both fouls could be deemed “unnecessary”.  HOWEVER, Hansbrough CLEANLY blocks Dwayne Wade, only to make contact (and not that aggressive of contact, I might add) with Wade’s head when he follows through.  Any basketball fan can tell you that there is a rule in the NBA playoffs that teams follow: No easy baskets.  No layups, no dunks, nothing easy in the paint.  EVERY team is taught this rule.  It’s the same as in football how a linebacker is taught to crush a receiver going across the middle of the field.  It’s to intimidate and force that player to lose his concentration.  Same in basketball.

Hansbrough makes a very legitimate play on the ball, follows through, and fouls Dwayne Wade hard (although not that hard.  If you want hard fouls on guys driving the lane watch any old school Pistons-Bulls playoffs series from the late 80s and early 90s.  I have three words for you: The Jordan Rules.  And I don’t believe flagrant fouls were doled out nearly as often back then as they are now.)  In my humble opinion, that was simply a hard foul, a role playing doing his job of intimidating, and making a statement that Wade is not getting anything easy.

But fine, I get it.  Stern is worried about fights and altercations (and Wade gets a little preferencial star treatment), so Hansbrough gets a flagrant one.  Whatever.  Let’s keep moving.

One minute later, Hansbrough is involved in a pick-and-roll.  He pulls up for a nice little jumper and Haslem CLUBS HIM IN THE FACE WITH BOTH HANDS.  There is NO play on the ball.  Haslem doesn’t even TRY to block the shot.  This is clearly a retaliation play, and Haslem should be ejected right then and there.  What’s even more comical, is that Haslem is quoted after the game saying that he DID, in fact, make a play on the ball.

Then, something absurd happens: Haslem is charged with a flagrant one foul as well.  I watched that live, and I couldn’t believe it.  I was as incredulous as Steve Kerr was.

Cut to the end of the game, and backup bigman Dexter Pittman tries to decapitate back swingman Lance Stephenson (probably because of this), and then, like an idiot, Pittman winks at his bench during the ensuing free throws.

Ok, so.  I am glad the NBA got this right.  Hansbrough should not be suspended, Haslem gets one game, and Pittman gets three.  What aggrivates me is the talking heads saying that the Hansbrough and Haslem fouls were the same, and if Haslem gets suspended, so should Hansbrough.  Also, I don’t understand how there is no rule in place to review flagrant one foul calls (only flagrant twos).

What I can’t believe is that Jalen Rose, a self-proclaimed old school, trash-talking basketball savant, cannot understand the difference between a good, hard, playoff foul, and a blatant, vengeful attack on Hanbrough’s pretty little face.

Happy Thursday.  Hope you can get to the weekend.