(Disclaimer: I am a big fan of TrueHoop, and of Henry Abbott himself. I think the blog is terrific, and that Abbott does some great work. But…)
If you watched Glen Davis’ foul last night, you know there was no malicious intent. You know he didn’t hit Williams very hard, and that Williams wouldn’t have fallen to the ground if the players weren’t running full-speed on the break.
But Abbott sure doesn’t seem to think so. He called Davis’ foul “one of the cheaper things a defender can do: He ripped Williams to the floor by his neck.”
Abbott says you can even look at the video and see how cheap Davis’ foul was. Well I looked at the video, and if you stop it at the :51-second mark, you can see Davis’ hand on Williams’ hand. It’s not like he went straight for the neck and simply tried to wrestle Williams to the ground. It’s not like he did nothing but grapple at Williams’ neck and drag him to the floor. Was it a foul? Certainly. Was it a flagrant foul? I certainly didn’t think so.
But let’s go to the rulebook. Here’s what the official NBA rulebook has to say about a Flagrant I, which is what Davis received:
If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul–penalty (1) will be assessed.
Was there contact on the play? Obviously. Was it unnecessary? I didn’t think so. Davis was trying to make sure he either 1) blocked the ball, or 2) fouled Williams hard enough to prevent a layup but not hard enough to hurt him. Davis could have fouled Williams with less vigor, but he would have been risking that Williams might have scored the basket. In my eyes, he did not foul Williams in a way that could have hurt him, nor did his arm linger on Williams’ neck or bring him viciously to the ground.
If anything, the swipe was more accidental than malicious. When you’re trying to block a shot, on the run, across somebody’s body, it’s tough to have a clean block. But even if he wasn’t trying to block the shot, and was just trying to foul Williams without letting him score a bucket, it wasn’t a cheap play.
Davis hit Williams’ neck on the follow-through of his swipe at the ball, but at no point did he grab the neck and try to rip him down. That, to me, is where the act keeps from being deemed unnecessary and becomes just a good, clean foul. Did Davis hit Williams above his shoulders? Yes. But above-the-shoulder hits are going to happen; not every above-the-shoulder hit will be unnecessary or cheap. Davis’ hit was high, but it was clean; it was not intended to injure Williams, nor was it unnecessary.
But Abbott deemed it “one of the cheaper things a defender can do.” Really? A good playoff-type foul on a fast break is that cheap? It’s not like Davis gave Williams a forearm shiver, or a clothesline. Actually, he damn near got the ball. He ended up hitting Williams’ neck, but it wasn’t a hard hit, and it was far from one of the cheaper things a defender can do.
Abbot goes on to assert that the Celtics “risk injuries to other teams” more often than any other team. But was Glen Davis ever “risking injury” to Marvin Williams with his foul? In no way. Really, how often do the Celtics throw an unnecessary elbow, or a cheap-shot shove? You could bring up Rajon Rondo’s hit on Brad Miller last season, but that was a play meant to help his team win, and he felt he had to hit Miller that hard to prevent a bucket in the waning moments of a playoff game. In reality, the only Celtics play of the last couple years I can remember as a true cheap shot would be Rondo’s altercation with Kirk Hinrich in that same Chicago series.
P.J. Brown had his share of hard fouls, as have James Posey, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, and the rest of the guys. But, the way I see it, they made just about every single one of those hard fouls merely to prevent a bucket. They don’t normally foul other teams with the intent to hurt someone, and in that way the fouls should be considered clean.
Looking back through NBA history, the willingness to give a hard foul can be attributed to almost every championship team. A certain tenacity, resolve, and toughness is essential to prevail when the stakes are higher. When a game comes down to the wire, the hard foul that prevents an easy two points and makes an opponent think twice during their next foray through the lane often makes a difference between a win or a loss.
Give me somebody who’s going to commit the necessary foul over the player afraid of a little contact any day. The first player is in all likelihood a winner, and the second is probably an underachiever.
Sometimes, being physical is simply the right play, the best basketball play you can make.
Physicality doesn’t always equate to dirtiness, Henry.