Why Miami Heat's Dexter Pittman and Udonis Haslem Deserve Suspensions for Game 6

Peter OwenCorrespondent IIMay 23, 2012

Picture courtesy USA Today
Picture courtesy USA Today

After committing flagrant fouls, the Miami Heat's Udonis Haslem and Dexter Pittman, as well as Tyler Hansbrough of the Indiana Pacers, face possible one-game suspensions for Game 6 of their teams' second-round series. For Haslem and Pittman, that punishment is well-deserved.

The Heat and Pacers had faced off for four games, getting more and more frustrated and annoyed with each other. In Game 5, that all boiled over into a rash of chippy confrontations and flagrant fouls.

There had already been plenty of technical fouls handed out by officials in this series, but things took a more physical turn when Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough was called for a flagrant foul on Miami's Dwyane Wade when he clubbed him on top of the head as Wade went for the rim.

This would be the least serious of the three flagrant fouls in the game, despite the blood drawn from Wade's brow.

Fifty-seven seconds later, Heat forward Udonis Haslem appeared to exact revenge when he delivered a two-handed smash to Hansbrough's face on a jump-shot attempt.

This would also be called a flagrant foul penalty one, though it seemed to fulfill all the necessary criteria to be deemed a penalty-two foul.

The game bubbled along with both teams delivering hard fouls that were at least fair and called correctly.

Inside the final minute, both teams had their bench players on the court as Miami cruised to win 115-83.

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson had made a choking gesture to LeBron James after he missed a Game 3 free throw, something which Heat veteran Juwan Howard took exception to and had acted on.

All eyes were on him, which proved wrong as Heat big man Dexter Pittman leveled Stephenson as he drove for a loose ball, throwing his elbow into the Indiana player's throat.

Yet another flagrant penalty one was called.

The NBA's head of discipline Stu Jackson will review all of these on Wednesday morning before deciding whether to uphold or increase the punishments on the three flagrant fouls.

The league may choose to punish Hansbrough and Haslem identically given the two fouls were related. However, this would be wrong. Haslem's flagrant was retaliation, which the NBA has long preached is more punishable than the initiator of the confrontation.

Both may be stuck on the bench in Game 6 with one-game suspensions, yet only Haslem should be.

Dexter Pittman should not be gracing the court again this season. His assault on Stephenson was reprehensible and has no place in professional sports.

Not only was it exceedingly dangerous, but it appeared to be premeditated as television cameras caught Pittman winking at a teammate after the foul. Should the league office take the same view, Pittman may be looking at seven or more games on the sidelines.

The league is at a crossroads now. They can either come down hard on all three players for unnecessary physical play, sending a message to others tempted to hand out the same flagrant fouls, or they can hand out light punishment.

Light punishment would send all the wrong message out to the league and its fans, effectively making it acceptable to level opponents during a game. If the league makes the punishment for a serious attack like Pittman's too light, what's to stop someone leveling one of the league's stars like Blake Griffin further down the line?

Time and again opposing players have chopped Griffin to the ground to prevent him from getting an easy dunk. Just wrapping him up isn't proving successful as he is strong enough to still break through and score, so more often now players are viciously sending him to the floor.

Eventually one of these "hard fouls" is going to result in a serious injury to a star player. Can the league live with that, knowing it could have put a stop to it with some suspensions?