Even in an NBA that has gone all kinds of soft, with teams Oklahoma City Thunder star Carmelo Anthony was whistled for Sunday night in Portland was a special kind of ridiculous. Warning: If you don't have the stomach for graphic content, don't worry. Nothing happens here:and defenders effectively being outlawed from , the flagrant-2 foul that
Yeah, Anthony was EJECTED FROM THE GAME (!!!!) for that criminally reckless ... layup attempt.
Seriously, is this a joke? Are we being PUNK'd? They for real kicked Melo out of the game for that? That can't be. I must be missing something. I better take another look at the flagrant-2 definition in the rule book:
A flagrant foul-penalty (2) is unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent. It is an unsportsmanlike act and the offender is ejected immediately.
Nope, I'm not missing anything. That's the letter of the law, and the officials, after getting a multiple-angle look at the play at the review table, indeed determined that Melo committed an unnecessary, excessive and unsportsmanlike act. Reggie Miller, who is no doubt speaking on behalf of every appalled old-school hooper, was unsurprisingly disgusted.
The NBA is so SOFT!! Carmelo got thrown out for that?? Mind you call on floor was a foul on Nurkic!! What a joke, seriously, A JOKE.— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) November 6, 2017
After the game, crew chief Rodney Mott said that determination was made, at least in part, because Melo's back was to the basket. Here's Mott's response to a pool reporter's question:
Where do I even start with this?
Look at the play again, and you'll see that Melo takes off at a sideways angle. His back being to the basket is entirely natural in this situation. So forget that. Now maybe, maybe, if you're completely intent on reaching for this explanation, you could make an argument that Melo does in fact shift his body ever so slightly in search of contact (which could be said about damn near every offensive player on every play these days). That's a stretch if you ask me, but still, if you want to take that stance, we should all be able to agree that's nothing more than a common offensive foul, and a ticky-tack one at that.
But to upgrade this to not just a flagrant-1, but a flagrant-2 and toss Melo from the game? That's a basketball crime. No wonder Anthony could barely stomach even talking about it after the game. To his credit, he took the high road, simply stating, among other innocuous responses, that he "thought it was the wrong call." Russell Westbrook and Thunder coach Billy Donovan weren't quite so subdued.
"I got hit in the face. They didn't review it as they should," Westbrook said. "I just think that when it's us, our team, myself, they don't do the same thing they do. Last game, tipped ball, against Celtics, I accidentally hit the guy in the face. Flagrant foul on me. It was an accident, but I hit him. I actually got hit in the face today. Nobody looks at it. Melo goes, hits Nurkic. They go review. It's a bunch of bulls---.
"I just think they don't referee the same way all the time," he said. "They pick and choose when they want to do it, which is not fair in my opinion. I've been in this league for a while, and I'm able to see it and understand it and see what's right or what's wrong, but I can see it's blatant, s--- that's not getting looked at, in my opinion. Get hit, you need to look at it. You look at everything else, you need to take a look at it."
"I've never seen in the history of the game a guy get an and-1 play and then get ejected from the game," Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters. "That's probably something you've got to talk to the league about."
"... I thought that [Westbrook] play should've been reviewed," Donovan said. "It may have proven nothing, but I think when someone gets hit in the face and goes down to the floor and you've got to call timeout, you should at least review it, just to make sure. I don't know why they reviewed the other one. ... I probably didn't ask Russell to stay down on the court long enough to get it reviewed."
Donovan is dead-on right in his sarcasm here, because the Melo call was definitely reviewed, and ultimately deemed a Flagrant-2, because of the way Nurkic went to the ground grabbing his face. That's what happens on these calls: Officials end up factoring in the result more than the act itself, which is the very reason flopping exists. In this case, Nurkic didn't flop. He legitimately took an elbow to the face. But still, if he stays on his feet, Melo stays in the game.
This was an equally ridiculous call as the one Melo was whistled for, as you can clearly see it is Tatum who starts behind the 3-point line and jumps forward into Snell's space (speaking of initiating contact). But again, it was called only because of the result. If Tatum doesn't land on Snell's foot and come up hobbling, this isn't even called a common foul. Nobody even notices. Even though Snell's feet were in the exact same place either way.
Newsflash: Incidental contact happens in basketball. Shooters land on other players' feet. It happens. Guys catch an elbow every now and then. It sucks. It hurts (though often not nearly as bad as guys make it look). But it happens. And listen, these calls matter. The Thunder lost 103-99 to the Blazers. Melo went out with 4:26 remaining in the third quarter. You don't think Carmelo Anthony (even if he was a minus-9 when he went out) could've made a four-point difference during the final 16 minutes? OKC is 4-5 this season and will presumably be battling for playoff seeding, in which one game can make a huge difference.
It'll be very interesting to see if the league ends up reducing this call to a flagrant-1, or perhaps it will rescind it altogether. It should, even though that would help the Thunder exactly zero.