Will Rajon Rondo Finally Be Suspended?
There's a fine line between hard-nosed playoff basketball fouls and downright dirty play, and Rajon Rondo seems to enjoy testing the boundaries. Striking Brad Miller across the face near the end of Game 5? Whether you think Rondo meant to hurt Miller or not likely depends on whether you prefer to wear red or green. But slinging Kirk Hinrich into the scorer's table in a play away from the ball? I've watched the replay a dozen times and I still can't figure out a way to justify it.
Neither could the officials; after the play was reviewed, Rondo was charged with a flagrant 1. A flagrant 2, mind you, would have earned him an automatic ejection.
As an NBA fan who's been absolutely mesmerized by this series, I'm glad Rondo wasn't given the hook. If he left in the second quarter, would we have been treated to one of the most exciting playoff games in NBA history? Probably not.
But now that the game is over, for the sake of fairness I'm hoping the league takes a close look at the play. I appreciate intensity and hard fouls, but Rondo is growing increasingly reckless, especially considering this took place away from the ball.
More importantly, players have been penalized more for less in the past; as Jay Mariotti notes, Robert Horry was docked two games for hip-checking Steve Nash in 2007 in a collision that, in hindsight, doesn't look nearly as deliberate as what Rondo did:
Will the NBA follow their own example? Only time will tell. Unlike when Horry was suspended, Rondo isn't just a role player, and there aren't players from the opposing team who also merit punishment (like Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw) to help balance things out.
No, if Rondo gets suspended for Game 7, it'd be a virtual death sentence for the already undermanned Celtics, one of the most controversial decisions the NBA has ever made. In a perfect world, the incredibly awkward timing (an elimination game featuring the reigning world champs on their own home floor) shouldn't affect the league's decision, but you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect it will.