The opening night game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was full of fireworks, as both teams clearly wanted to beat each other after facing off in Game 7 of last season's Eastern Conference Finals. Miami won 120-107, but not before emotions reached a boiling point in the final seconds.
While driving to the basket, Heat guard Dwyane Wade was essentially clotheslined by Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. After a brief scrum, Rondo received a flagrant foul and Wade sank the free throws to further seal the victory.
However, both teams weren't done following the game.
Speaking to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Wade called Rondo's foul a "punk play" and hinted at possible future retaliation:
I'm here to play basketball, man. If you want to do something else, then go do something else. Boxing, this is not it. I was glad I was able to stop myself in that very moment and move on from it. We'll see next time we play.
These are interesting words from Wade, as he basically smacked Rondo in the face during last year's playoffs and didn't get called for a foul.
Naturally, on Boston's end, the team is defending Rondo's actions.
Head coach Doc Rivers defended Rondo to ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg and said that his point guard's foul "wasn't a 'punk move' unless (Wade's foul) was, too."
But what about Rondo's opinion? He's at the heart of this situation, so what's his take? Fortunately, in an interview with Ben Rohrbach of WEEI, the former Kentucky Wildcat gave his opinion:
I don’t think it was a hard foul, said Rondo, referring to Tuesday’s flagrant-1 on Wade. He sold it a little bit, and that’s basketball. They were up, he drove to the hole and I didn’t want to give up a layup. Simple as that. I didn’t yank him down or dirty plays that you’ve seen him play in the past, so that’s what it is.
The fact is that both sides need to move on from this incident and just play the game. Still, I agree with Rondo. When push comes to shove, his beef with Miami is legitimate.
Wade is a great pest who certainly plays some of the toughest defense in the league, but the sad truth of the NBA is that superstars get more calls in their favor than other players.
That isn't to say that Rondo is a bad player by any means. In fact, he's one of the most underrated in the NBA. He has shown great prowess in becoming a great passer and defender, and his scoring has come a long way too. And in the opinions of some, he may be the best all-around point guard in the league.
But that being said, though his foul on Wade was clearly a flagrant and I don't condone it at all, it's understandable why Rondo and the Celtics would have a problem with the Heat.
Though he's fun to watch, Wade does get away with murder at times. And as someone often critical of how certain games are refereed, this bad blood is a sign that the commissioner's office may indeed have to start monitoring the game's officials more closely.
In doing so, drama between teams won't escalate to the point where players are trying to injure one another and near fights won't have to be broken up on the court.
More importantly, it will finally get scrappy players like Rondo the respect they deserve.