The NBA front office is like a magician at a five year olds birthday party. Anyone over the age of 5 that has a brain knows that the guy isn't really pulling a rabbit out of his hat...but that's what the magician says he is doing. This is basically the case regarding the NBA front office and how it tries to be "consistent" in doling out punishment and making the right calls. But what we've seen so far this post season proves contradictory.
Game four Chicago-Boston. Brad Miller is left wide open for a game-tying layup until he gets blindsided by Rajon Rondo. A personal foul is called. Rondo claims he was going for the ball, yet the ball was in Miller's far hand. If Rondo was truly going for the ball, as he claims, the contact would have been made on Miller's arm, as the ball was out of Rondo's reach. Rondo also would have made a more vertical motion with his arms going for the block...instead, he came across and got Miller in the face. Miller gets bloodied, loses a tooth, but no flagrant is called. A flagrant wouldn't have guarenteed a Bulls victory, but Miller would have tried to make the second free throw AND Chicago would get the ball after the 2 attempts.
Verdict: The NBA was right in not giving Rondo further punishment after the game...but the decision for just a personal foul was questionable at best.
Game five Orlando-Philly. Early in the game, Dwight Howard connects to the back of Sam Dalembert's head with an elbow. Howard clearly came up with the elbow after the play had ended. As per the NBA's rules, Howard was suspended for Game 6.
Verdict: NBA got this one 100% right...Howard deserved the suspension.
Game six Boston-Chicago. In the first half, Rondo and Hinrich get tangled up while boxing each other out. Instead of just shrugging him off, Rondo (right in front of the refs) uses his hold on Hinrichs arm to whip him into the scorers table. Double technicals are assessed and no further suspensions are given.
Verdict: Are you serious? There is no way Rondo should have been allowed to play Game 7. Yes, no elbow or punch was thrown but there was definite intent and he could have seriously injured Hinrich. On a side note, even Robert Horry got a suspenion when he body checked Steve Nash into the scorers table, setting off the suspensions of Amare and Diaw in the playoff series between the Spurs-Suns a couple of years ago.
That brings us to last night. Three reviewable incidents occur...Alston's slap, Kobe's elbow and Fisher's flagrant. Without a doubt, Alston's slap was the least vicious and least dangerous. Kobe elbows Artest in the throat (which last time I checked was above the shoulders). As we all found out with Dwight, any elbow or punch above the shoulders is an automatic ejection/suspension. They obviously thought that the elbow was an extra-curiccular play, or else they wouldn't have given Kobe the Flagrant-1. But God forbid, the NBA suspends one of it's best players on one of it's best teams in a crucial game.
Which brings us to Skip. Here's my biggest problem with this suspension. In the past the NBA has said that there is no room for interpretation with its rules. This was brought up in that Suns-Spurs series when players left the bench in a gut-reaction to help/check on a fallen teammate. A fight was not in danger of breaking out, but they left the bench area, and the NBA said rules are rules.
Going back to Dwight, the rule states it needs to be a "punch or elbow above the shoulders." A slap is not a punch or an elbow. What the NBA essentially did was change its rules on the fly. What should have been done was Alston is given a fine and the rule is then amended (because I agree you can't have people going around slapping each other). If something happens that is not specified in the current rules, then change the rules after the season, after the series, whenever. But don't make up a new rule and then retroactively apply it.
In conclusion, the NBA has shown consistency this post-season. It has consistently stated that if you play for a major-market team with a strong fanbase, then you get preferential treatment. No one would watch a Bulls-Magic semi-finals, so let's look the other way on Rondo throwing a player into the scorers table. We can't have the Lakers eliminated in the second round, so we'll just give Kobe a slap on the wrist.
This is in no way a concession of Game 3 or this series. I believe both are still very winnable, but there comes a point when it's incredibly hard to be a fan of a league that cannot be taken seriously.