Thabo Sefolosha was found not guilty of three charges stemming from a confrontation with police.
His on-the-record public accounts of the incident have been segmented – his testimony, an interview here or there.
But now the Hawks wing is thoroughly detailing that night and its aftermath.
Sefolosha, via Nathaniel Penn of GQ:
An officer came over to me and said, “Get the hell out!” I said, “Did I do something wrong? You can talk to me in a nicer way.” I didn’t quite understand why he had to come at us so hard when there were so many other people around. We moved, but he kept telling us to get the hell out. I told him we were listening to him: “You are the police, but you don’t have to act like you’re the toughest guy on earth.” He said, “With or without a badge, I can fuck you up.” Like, whatever. We’re not about to find out. I’m the last guy who gets physical with anybody, especially the police. At the same time, I felt singled out for no reason. He was much shorter than me. [Sefolosha is six feet seven.] I said, “You’re a midget, and you’re mad.” I voiced my opinion, but I kept moving.
One officer pulled me from my right arm, another grabbed me on my left, and another grabbed me on the back of my neck. I’m in, like, an on-a-cross type of position. I couldn’t even move. It was just chaos. I had never been arrested before. I understood a little bit late that they were trying to put me on the ground, but if somebody grabs your arms and pulls you on your neck, you fall face first.
Somebody kicked my leg, more than once, from the back to force me to the ground. I knew something had happened as soon as they did it; I’m an athlete, so I know how my body should feel. They were stepping on my foot, too, I guess to try to keep me there. I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do to calm it down. I tried to show them I was cooperating. I tried.
I don’t get a lot of publicity for it because I never toot my own horn, but yeah, I think I’m possibly the best, or one of the best, defenders in this league. Not in a selfish way, but I like to think that maybe with me, we would have had a chance to win a title. I think I would have done a great job on LeBron [whose Cavs defeated the Hawks in the Conference Finals]. Watching my team from the bench was the worst experience a basketball player can have.
That last point will essential for Sefolosha’s lawsuit. Lawyers will actually argue in court whether the Hawks would’ve beaten Cleveland if they had Sefolosha.
Here’s what we know: The Cavaliers swept swept the Hawks with LeBron James averaging 30.3, 11.0 and 9.3 points per game.
Past that, it’s all conjecture.
Do I think Sefolosha would’ve given the Hawks a better chance? Yes. He was excellent wing defender and maybe would’ve been Atlanta’s best chance on LeBron with DeMarre Carroll playing through an on-court injury.
Do I think the Hawks would’ve won with Sefolosha? No. LeBron and the Cavaliers were on another level after the trade deadline. Atlanta, which overachieved throughout most of the season, couldn’t keep up.
In my adjusted ratings using projected postseason rotations, Cleveland had offensive/defensive/net ratings of 118.2/101.0 /+17.2. The system was down on the Sefolosha-less Hawks, who came in at 109.9/104.9/+5.0. But even adding Sefolosha would’ve improved their marks to just 110.5/103.8/+6.7 – well below the Cavaliers.
That’s just a cursory look, though. The courtroom debate about Sefolosha’s effect on the specific matchup will be intriguing.
I’m also interested in the other issues Sefolosha addresses. How often do police officers – intentionally or not – escalate confrontations or give unclear directions and then use the resulting circumstances to justify force? That’s a much wider problem then debating the 2015 Eastern Conference finals, and it’s one that must be addressed.