The reason that I feel like writing about this at all is that as the media cycle has come around on this Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards first-round matchup, and the prevailing opinion that Wizards forward Darius Songaila should not have been suspended for Game 6 has now become an unarguable fact in the media. I heard Steve Czaban talk about it this morning on Fox Sports Radio. I heard commentators talk about it during the Cavs’ Game 6. I heard commentators talk about it during the Celtics vs. Hawks Game 6. It seems that everyone talking about this suspension is now referring to it as a great travesty – an injustice of epic proportions – the proof that the NBA is at worst fixed, and at best in favor of protecting their meal-ticket LeBron James to whatever lengths to ensure that he succeeds.
I have heard quite enough of this.
Yes, the NBA has a vested interest to protect LeBron James. As a fan of the Cleveland Cavs, I would argue that they didn’t do a good job at all. All series long the Wizards talked about hitting LeBron when he drove through the lane. And the proof was there that the Wizards were no longer looking to play basketball. Instead they decided to commit fouls and try to physically intimidate one of the game’s best players by hitting him rather than playing tough defense and double-teaming him.
What is the NBA supposed to do when a team like the Wizards is so blatant and unapologetic about their tactics? They don’t have a right to beat up one of the game’s best players and tell the world that they plan on doing it without some reaction from the NBA executive office. It isn’t in the league’s best interest to let any of this stuff happen. Ever since the Ron Artest fight in the stands, the NBA has been quite proactive about keeping fights under control and the Wizards basically said that they were going to push the limits of this series by hitting LeBron James when he came into the lane.
And this is where the Darius Songaila situation unfolds. The reason that the NBA suspended Songaila was because in their view he threw a punch at another player after the whistle. This is the NBA’s definition of fighting. And just look at the replay. Songaila’s hand comes up and hits LeBron James in the face after the play. They were tangled a bit, but his hand flies up and hits LeBron.
Now, whether it was intentional or not is up for debate by you, me, and everyone else. Stu Jackson from the NBA has the final verdict and he determined that it was intentional by Songaila. I don’t know if it was truly intentional or not. It could go either way from my viewpoint looking at the video in a completely unbiased manner. The thing is that nobody should view it in an unbiased manner. This series was defined by the trash talking of the Washington Wizards. It was backed up by five games worth of hard hits and hard fouls to LeBron James including a push while he was in the air, two shots to the head, and finally Songaila’s “punch.”
So, please, someone tell me why the Washington Wizards and Darius Songaila should have been given the benefit of the doubt by Stu Jackson and the NBA? In a world where it is in the NBA’s best interest to keep fights out of their games and protect all players from harm, why shouldn’t they send a message after five straight games of premeditated rough play and fouling?
If anything, the Wizards were lucky that Brendan Haywood wasn’t suspended for his push of LeBron early on in the series. To a lesser extent they should have felt lucky that they didn’t lose DeShawn Stevenson after his hard foul to LeBron’s head in another game. How many times do the Washington Wizards think they deserve the benefit of the doubt when they talked all series long, basically calling their shots against LeBron before they even occurred?
According to Stu Jackson and the NBA they didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt any longer. I don’t understand how anyone else could disagree either.
Granted there were worse fouls in the series. There were worse fouls in other series. None of that matters. With the consistent evidence provided by the Washington Wizards to the NBA of how they were going to play this series they finally put the NBA to a decision with something that looked like a punch after the whistle. And that hints of fighting. The NBA can roll with the punches (pun intended) on hard plays if they feel like it, but they will not roll with it when it looks anything like a fight.