Why Pittman and Haslem Needed to Be Suspended
Pittman will be suspended three games without pay for striking the neck and shoulders of Lance Stephenson, while Haslem will be suspended one game without pay for striking the head and shoulders of Tyler Hansbrough.
Now that we've got that polite wording out of the way, let's look at this for real.
One game for Haslem sounds fine. That works. This Pittman thing, though…I don't know.
Pittman didn't simply strike Stephenson on the neck and shoulders, he leveled him with a forearm to the throat, dropping him to the court immediately. It wasn't any sort of play for the ball and didn't have any reason for occurring, other than Pittman was trying to send a message.
Did he have a reason to try to intimidate Stephenson? Sure. After the second-year guard decided during Game 3 that it would be a bright idea to give LeBron James the choke sign from the bench while he was shooting free throws, Stephenson had already heard from Juwan Howard. If you're going to do things like that, you need to expect that your opponents won't take kindly to it.
That being said, there is absolutely no place in basketball for the cheap shot that Pittman delivered to Stephenson. It brought to mind the play from last year's postseason that got Andrew Bynum suspended for the first five games of this season after he delivered a brutal flagrant foul to J.J. Barea.
Initially it seemed as though Pittman's suspension should be harsher than Bynum's, because he wasn't acting in the heat of the emotion or getting out of control because of a basketball play. He was cold and calculated. So calculated he was caught on camera after the play, clearly winking, proud of his decision.
Of course, the league has said that missed playoff games count as more than regular-season games, so three playoff games is probably considered equal to five regular-season games. Still, it's not enough. Pittman could have seriously injured Stephenson. It was entirely on purpose. It had absolutely nothing to do with that game that was being played, but a game that had passed three days ago.
While the NHL has been rife with controversy about intentional hits and rough play and the NFL has dealt with that terribly disturbing bounty scandal this past season, this is the NBA. This is a league that protects its players. For that reason alone, it cannot go lightly when handing out punishments for reckless actions like this. These punishments are also statements and need to be strong enough for players to realize that a boneheaded move like Pittman's will be punished.
These two teams have been ramping up the intensity since before the series even began. We knew this moment was coming, now we have to make sure that Pittman's hit on Stephenson is as ugly as it's going to get.
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