On Thursday Indiana Pacer David West was cited by the NBA for deliberately hitting Dwyane Wade in the back of the head (flagrant-1) and for flopping when there was no foul on another occasion. LeBron James was also cited for flopping. Both were fined as the Pacers and Heat go through their second year of being in the center of the argument over “bad calls” and “cheap shots” in the NBA playoffs.
Before LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were teammates, James fans would complain that James got far fewer calls because he was so strong that he would keep going to the hoop through contact while the same contact would send Wade to the floor.
The best NBA players at driving to the hoop, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade, can draw over 300 fouls each season. If even four percent of the calls were obviously wrong, modern software would enble any opposing NBA team review every drawn foul in succession and put together the kind of videos put out to create the impression that any given player was getting ridiculous treatment and try to sway a couple of calls in a crucial game.
On the flip side of the “non-existent” calls, the Heat and Pacers also continue to pile up flagrant fouls. In the first game of the series, replays showed West appearing to make use of his martial arts training by aiming an elbow perfectly into the blade of Mario Chalmers’ injured shoulder, causing Chalmers to double over in pain.
Lance Stephenson was the third player fined – and it was the tale of three Heat elbows of diminishing strength that hit Stephenson. Last year he received a violent elbow that broke his collarbone, and earlier in the series Wade hit him with an elbow to the head that earned Wade a post-game flagrant. However, Stephenson fell back after a slight elbow from Ray Allen, leading the NBA to fine him for flopping.
When Shane Battier was asked during a postgame interview about hitting the court on the three charges he took in Game 3, he responded, “I’m 34 years old, weigh 218 pounds, and do not have a great sense of balance.”
In soccer, flopping in the penalty box can get you a yellow card. In basketball, falling to the court on contact has been used to make sure the referees know there was contact or make it appear there was contact when there was not.
Thursday’s fines were the latest in the long-standing back-and-forth between players and coaches trying to earn the current call – or the next call in the most difficult major sport to officiate.
TNT commentator and former Chicago Bulls 3-point specialist Steve Kerr was even-handed in his criticism of both teams, telling the AP, “… if (Shane) Battier and (Tyler) Hansbrough are going to flop a little bit because that’s how they’re going to impact the game right now, I’m probably more willing to give them a pass than when I see David West and LeBron falling all over each other in the post, two of the best players in the league.”