Much was made of the flagrant fouls committed in game 5 of the Heat vs. Pacers series. Most people feel Tyler Hansboro’s foul was correctly called as a Flagrant 1 because he clearly began the play by attempting to swat at the ball. Conversely, most people believe Udonis Haslem’s retaliatory foul should have been called a Flagrant 2 and most believe he should be suspended for making no attempt at the ball.
More disturbingly, Dexter Pittman’s foul on Lance Stephenson was a complete joke. He blatantly elbowed Stephenson in the throat.
We know all that and from an unbiased perspective, there isn’t much debate.
But ESPN’s Michael Wallace, joined the SVP Show on Wednesday and shared an interesting, and perhaps disturbing perspective.
We know Lance Stephenson from the “choke” gesture he made toward LeBron James after missing a few late game free throws earlier in the series. While LeBron refused to respond publicly, if you know LeBron, he was not pleased and does not forget. He doesn’t have the MJ or Tiger factor in terms of exacting his revenge, but don’t let the smooth taste and public persona fool you. He can be ruthless.
Wallace discussed the flagrant fouls and predictably defended Haslem’s foul and stated that he doesn’t believe he should be suspended. When discussing Pittman’s foul, he had no problem calling it a dirty play, but his comments about the fine Pittman will receive caught my attention (at the 2 minute mark).
“Best believe, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are gonna put up money for whatever kind of fine or suspension that this 2nd year Center is gonna get.”
Now tell me. If Pittman was sent out specifically to send a message to Stephenson, and other players will pay for his fine (I’m sure through back channels so it can’t be traced), how is this different than bounties in the NFL? Is this not a bounty?
You can try to say that Pittman took it upon himself to do this, but if you’re honest with yourself, you know better than that. He’s a role player on a team contending for a title. It’s highly unlikely he would do something to this degree all on his own. I can’t say that LeBron, Wade, Spoelstra, or Riley in particular told him to do this and I can’t say that THIS was what they had in mind. But I can tell you that this was planned.
Many believe Pittman followed Pat Riley‘s long-time code in sending a message to Stephenson. And if you look at Haslem’s retaliation, and consider Haslem’s tenure with the Heat (he and Wade were both coached by Riley), you start to think that this is definitely ingrained in the culture in Miami.
Let me be clear. I have no issue with hard fouls and playoff basketball. I have no issue with a lot of the things in the NFL that people make a big deal about. But you can’t pick and choose. If you want to make a big deal about NFL teams offering money for big hits or retaliation then you have to do the same in the NBA. You can’t just turn a blind eye because superstars with great reputations are involved.
Did LeBron James and Dwyane Wade tell Dexter Pittman to do what he did? I don’t know. I believe directly or indirectly they did. It’s about the culture and what is known to be expected in that locker room. If they had some sort of explicit or implicit agreement with Pittman to cover his fine money did they intend it to be that bad and that dirty of a hit? I doubt it. But you can’t judge intent. You can only judge actions.
The issue here, is no one will ever know the truth. Michael Wallace probably spoke out of turn in this interviewing saying what he did. Or maybe no one else sees it from my perspective and there is absolutely no problem with LeBron and Wade paying fine money to retaliate against a guy who made a choking gesture to LeBron.
That’s the thing. If Pittman did it to almost anyone else, you could use the “rogue” argument and say that he was just trying to send an overall message. But because it was against Stephenson, because of LeBron and Wade’s reactions, this was a clear message sent on behalf of LeBron James. It’ll never be proven that the stars paid for his fine money and money he loses by being suspended, but the mere suggestion should be enough to get some people’s attention.
This isn’t a lot different than the Saints situation at a glance. There appears to be a culture not only permitting this type of behavior, but expecting & requiring it. The initiative appears to come from the top (at least philosophically), & money is alleged to change hands in return for dirty plays.
The biggest difference, is we know more about the Saints situation because the NFL investigated them for years & has over 15,000 pages of documentation on the issue.
Unfortunately, the NBA has a demonstrated history of looking the other way when scandals involve their superstars.