Earlier this week the Cleveland Cavaliers played the Boston Celtics. During the game, two outrageous events occurred. The first was the dislocation of Kevin Love’s shoulder by Celtic’s center, Kelly Olynyk. If you watch the play, it doesn’t look like a basketball play, but at least in happened in the midst of vying for the ball and can be written off as such, despite remaining an unequivocally dirty play. Kevin Love is now out for the remainder of the playoffs, radically reducing his team’s chances of winning the championship. This, all because Olynyk can’t tell the difference between what force is reasonable, and what is completely out of line. Kevin Love didn’t fall, or twist an ankle–he was injured by another player. As punishment, Olynyk is suspended for ONE GAME. Yes, that’s right, just ONE GAME.
More egregious, and by far, is the spinning back fist thrown by J.R. “I’m a repeat offender” Smith, the player jettisoned from every previous team for which he’s played for lacking any semblance of character. During the same game, Smith “wildly slung” his arm at the face of Jae Crowder, knocking him to the ground, practically out cold. The shot to the face actually has a name in Mixed Martial Arts, and it’s called a Spinning Back Fist; it’s a move that has ended many, many fights by knockout, and is known for its force and lethality. Crowder not only got knocked to the ground, but twisted his knee in the process, a common injury resulting from a knockout while standing. For this, JR Smith was suspended for, wait for it…two games.
It’s just…beyond belief.
I have rarely felt so strongly that Adam Silver and the NBA completely misjudged a situation, but this time is different. JR Smith did not get into a basketball tussle, he threw a very dangerous punch, that landed, to the face of another player. Sure, he was ejected, and now he’ll miss two games, but what of the fact that he committed a crime? Since when is a basketball court asylum from state court and our legal system? Smith should be charged with assault.
Adam Silver–you blew this one, and badly. One and two game suspensions, respectively, are totally inadequate punishments for the transgressions committed. By failing to mete out punishment that is proportionate, you have tacitly approved of such behavior, setting a dangerous precedent. JR Smith should have been banned for the season. More generally, the league should punish players more severely for injuring another player if the injury stems from conduct outside of that which is normative to the game. I’ve never seen someone yank on another players arm as Olynyk did, nor have I ever seen such a violent punch to the face that JR Smith threw, in the context of a basketball game.
I am very disappointed, even disgusted, with the NBA’s punishment decisions. I hope you are, too.