When Serge Ibaka caught Blake Griffin with a violent shot to the groin near the end of the Thunder’s win over the Clippers last Sunday, most watching at the time expected the play to result in an ejection.
After review, the refs called a flagrant foul, but allowed Ibaka to remain in the game.
In the days that followed, many expected a suspension to be handed down from the league office, but Ibaka was merely fined $25,000 for his actions.
It can be frustrating at times to understand the league’s position on plays like these, and even the game’s players — most notably, LeBron James and Blake Griffin in this case — can find themselves in disagreement with the league over its decisions.
The NBA rarely comments publicly or explains its thinking, but thanks to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, we have a little insight into what went into this one.
Some checking with the league office this week revealed that Stu Jackson & Co. deemed Ibaka’s contact with Griffin’s, uh, groin area to be unintentional. The league view, I’m told, is that Ibaka was slapping at an arm that Griffin unexpectedly pulled away, leading to the painful connection and thus distinguishing the play from the “groin altercations” that earned Wade and DeMarcus Cousins suspensions earlier this season.
Most agreed that Ibaka wasn’t aiming to hit Griffin below the belt, even as the play unfolded in real time. Intent shouldn’t matter, however, as players need to be held responsible for their actions.
Ibaka should have been ejected at the time, or suspended a game in the days that followed. Both penalties would have been excessive, but one or the other would have been just right.