New Orleans Pelicans

Jason Smith Blake Griffin Foul: Why Smith's 2-Game Suspension Was the Right Call

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 13:  Jason Smith #14 of the New Orleans Hornets in action during the game against the Miami Heat at the New Orleans Arena on October 13, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Holly MacKenzieNBA Lead BloggerMarch 23, 2012

It wasn't Chris Paul who took the hardest hit upon his return to New Orleans

No, that distinction would belong to Paul's teammate, Blake Griffin, courtesy of New Orleans's Jason Smith. Midway through the fourth quarter, as Griffin was heading to the basket, Smith charged into him, knocking him to the ground on a play that looked more suited for a football field than a basketball court.

Immediately after committing the foul, the force of the hit saw Smith end up in the concourse area behind the basket, where he exchanged words with Paul and other members of the Clippers. Meanwhile, Griffin remained face down on the court, catching his breath. 

It was an ugly, unnecessary play. 

It wasn't a play on the ball, and it forced the NBA into suspending Smith two games without pay for his actions. Smith later apologized, saying, "I think it looked a lot worse than what it was, but that's still not a play that you ever want to do to another player like that. I apologize to Blake Griffin. I didn't want to hurt him at all. I just wanted to try and cut off his lane to the basket."

This is one of those instances where talk is cheap. In this case, extremely cheap.

Not only did Smith commit a senseless foul that could have resulted in serious injury if it had occurred a few seconds later with Griffin already in the air, but his actions after the foul showed a very different story than the one he told reporters postgame. 

After jawing with various members of the Clippers following the hit, Smith raised his arms to the crowd, encouraging them to celebrate his classless takedown. It was a situation that could have escalated into something very ugly, very quickly.

I believe Smith when he said that he didn't want to hurt Griffin. As someone who gets annoyed watching Griffin complain to the officials on more possessions than he doesn't, I can only imagine how frustrating it can be to play against him.

While Smith might not have had any malicious intent beyond cutting off Griffin's lane to the hoop and taking out some frustration, it doesn't matter. There's no place for plays like that on a basketball court. Had Griffin decided to retaliate, he would have found himself in the concourse—among fans—to get to Smith. That is exactly what we don't ever need to deal with. 

Watching an arena cheer and celebrate what was an unacceptable play that had nothing to do with basketball gave me an uneasy feeling. Watching Smith leave while being lauded as a hero made me angry. I'm glad the league decided to step in and punish Smith for the play, but there's something that needs to be said.

To every fan with a reaction of, "If that happened in the '80s," it's time to recognize that this isn't the '80s and that, for better or worse, today's NBA is a different world. We know the rules, we have to start holding players accountable to them, regardless of the brand of basketball we'd prefer to see.

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