Rajon Rondo: Boston Celtics Star Doesn't Deserve Suspension for Outburst

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics directs his team against the Atlanta Hawks in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on April 29, 2012 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks won 83-74. 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 Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Rajon Rondo was tossed after bumping a referee late in Boston Celtics' 83-74 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday and now faces the risk of a suspension.

A technical reading of the rulebook or a staunch regard for precedent may result in the All-Star point guard being held out for another game or two, but that would be tragic. There's a time for suspensions, and this isn't one of them.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be punishment. A stiff fine is in order, and the ejection was certainly warranted.

It might even be nice to see these athletes give public apologies in these situations—a little shaming might make for better-than-average halftime entertainment.

Suspensions, however, are an extreme form of punishment at this stage of the postseason. They should be reserved to condemn actions that actually put people at physical risk. Rondo's bump was out of line to be sure, but it didn't pose the slightest threat.

Still, NBA rules mandate than any contact with an official result in a one-game suspension.

Even if there's no way around that, the suspension shouldn't come in the postseason.

At the very least, it's too difficult to discern Rondo's intent. Yes, it looks like he meant to bump the official, but there's certainly a chance he only wanted to get up in his face and edged too far. He still should have known better, but there's a difference between a mistake and deliberate contact.

This situation is a bit close to call.

It also appears as though Rondo might have lost his footing to some degree, either stumbling over a teammate's foot or his own and losing some balance. That might be a charitable interpretation of the tape, but such charity might be appropriate given the limited contact.

There's also something to be said for the last-minute emotional intensity that should be taken into consideration circumstantially.

The bottom line is Rondo did something stupid. It's just too hard to tell if he actually did something malicious.

It's one thing for the NBA to protect its officials—it's another to treat them with utterly farcical reverence. If there's a case to be made that Rondo's contact with the official may have been incidental, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

With a potentially close playoff series on the line, this isn't a time to make excessive statements.