When watching the NBA Playoffs almost every fan will have some kind of gripe against the refs at one point or another.  There’s always a game or two where you feel your team got the short end of the stick when it came to the whistles.  Some will say that’s part of home court advantage, some say the more aggressive team is given the benefit of the doubt, and some will claim the league is flat out rigged.

However the game ends up being called, the primary thing both players and fans will ask for is consistency and it’s the particular lack of consistency that has made the refereeing of this years playoffs so controversial.  While there have been scattered inconsistencies throughout this year’s playoffs, game 5 of the Miami-Indiana series serves as a focal point for inconsistent calls and feeds the conspiracy theorists who believe in superstar calls and league-favored teams.  The controversy in the game is over the definition of a personal foul, a flagrant 1, and a flagrant 2.

Lets look at a flagrant 1 that is given to Tyler Hansbrough for his foul on Dwayne Wade.  In the play Hansbrough definitely swings down on the ball with a lot of force, making contact with Wade’s head.  Hansbrough was undoubtedly making a play on the ball, but if you want to say he used unnecessary force, thus making it a flagrant 1, that is fine, but that also creates a standard.

Now lets look at the flagrant that was given to Udonis Haslem for his foul on Tyler Hansbrough.  This play was ruled a flagrant 1 despite the fact that Haslem clearly makes NO attempt to make a play on the ball and instead forcefully throws both arms at Hansbrough’s face, undoubtedly in retaliation for Hansbrough’s foul on Wade earlier in the game.  If Hansbrough’s foul was ruled a flagrant 1, there is no doubt this should be ruled a flagrant 2 (as announcer Steve Kerr immediately notes) due to the fact that the foul is an unnecessary and forceful blow to the face, with no attempt to go for the ball, and is likely a retaliation play.  Despite this, the foul is ruled a flagrant 1 and Halsem, a key player for Miami due to Bosh’s injury, is allowed to play the remainder of the game.  Sure, Haslem has been suspended for the upcoming game 6, but the fact remains that he was allowed to play in a critical game 5 for Miami and will also be available for a game 7 if the series goes that far.  Was Hansbrough punished by the refs for the fact that he got up after that foul, rather than lying on the ground as if he was shot like Wade did earlier in the game?  Let’s also consider that in instances like this, referees are instructed to call flagrant 2 fouls, as those are then reviewable, where as flagrant 1 fouls are not.  So by this judgment, the referees are saying that this is clearly not a flagrant 2 foul.  Put me down as suspect.

Lets then look at the foul by Dexter Pittman on Lance Stephenson that was also dubbed a flagrant 1.  Not even the biggest Miami homer can argue that foul should not be an immediate ejection.  Not to mention Pittman’s wink over to the Miami bench, making Pittman’s clear act of revenge that more disgusting.  And once again this was called a flagrant 1.

To go even further in the case of referee inconsistency in the series came when Dwayne was called for a flagrant for his foul on Darren Collison.  While I don’t disagree that this should be a flagrant 1 foul, it is hard to argue that Wade made much of any play on the ball and simply lowered his shoulder into the back of a defenseless Collison.  Let’s just say that wouldn’t fly on the playground.  The inconsistency comes in the fact that earlier in the year Jason Smith committed a near identical foul on Blake Griffin and was suspended 2 games for it.  That sets the precedent.  What was Wade’s consequence?  No suspension.  No fine.  Some may argue that it’s the nature of playoff basketball and that playoff suspensions should be for only really harmful plays.  To that school of thought I offer you James Posey’s foul on Kirk Heinrich that landed him a 1 game suspension…and that was in a playoff game.

Can I sense some major favoritism given to the stars of the game?  If Louis Amundson had committed the same foul against Wade (and inevitably see Wade lay on the floor for an hour, whilst having LeBron negotiating with the refs) would we be looking at a suspension?  No doubt about it.  Wade’s ‘attacker’ would have been immediately removed from the game, would probably face a suspension (like Smith and Posey), and he would probably be talked about like some kind of arch villain on Sportscenter.  Similarly, if Jason Smith committed on Reggie Evans rather than NBA golden boy Blake Griffin, there is no way a 2 game suspension would have been handed out.  Unfortunately that is the NBA David Stern has created and allowed today.  It almost seems as if the league and media are yearning for the superstar driven league we saw in the 80s and 90s.  That desire is putting a serious damper on the game.  People complain about the diva attitude that many NBA stars display?  Blame the entitlement that league has given these players based on their superstar treatment.  If the NBA wants to get rid of the growing conspiracy theories, its inconsistencies like these that need to be amended.  Will Indiana retaliate?  Lets just say game 6 will be a fun one to watch.

Leave a Reply

Follow Us
Stay Connected
Get the SportsForce Blog in Your Email