He was a thug.
And that, at the very least, was the mark of a thug, the very stigma that David Stern and the NBA have been trying to shed for over a decade.
Which means the NBA shouldn't just consider suspending Rondo—it must suspend him.
Humphries' foul was anything but innocent, but there was no malice behind it whatsoever.
Could he have been sending a message? Of course, but that message wasn't violent or maniacal. If anything, it was an attempt to make Garnett think twice before attacking the rim. And that's a message that most post players will try to send nine out of 10 times. Just ask Garnett himself.
Still, Rondo believed it to be an act of aggression and threw caution and professionalism to the wind, as he essentially attacked Humphries in what became a brawl that spilled into the stands and spiraled out of control.
The NBA can't have that, especially from a repeat offender like Rondo who has been known to let his judgment become clouded and his unjustifiable emotions get the best of him. After all, tossing the ball at a referee is one thing, instigating a battle royal that comes to blows is another.
If the league truly wants to continue to reinvent its persona and transform its character, it has to figuratively hit Rondo as hard as he hit Humphries—with a suspension.
Doing so sends a message while also setting another precedent, one that states that the league is still not going to tolerate such behavior.
Though this incident was nowhere near as brutal as the melee that took place between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in 2004, once it poured into the stands, there's no denying that it served as a frightening reminder of how dangerous conditions can get when emotions spiral out of control.
Bear in mind that Rondo's singular act sparked an entire bout. It wasn't just him going after Humphries, but rather, it turned into a sea of mayhem.
That's the real danger here—other players taking it upon themselves to get involved, to ultimately make matters worse out of some twisted sense of camaraderie.
I won't get up on a soapbox and preach that this altercation will serve as a gateway war for Rondo or the rest of the Association's athletes. I will, however, admit that a failure to act swiftly and with the utmost of severity does open up the league to a battery of other injustices.
What if the Nets, out of sheer frustration, retaliate when these two teams meet again because Rondo wasn't suspended? What if another player sees what Rondo was able to get away with and allows himself to reach such a boiling point because he knows that a suspension isn't in the cards?
What if next time, this is worse? What then?
The truth is, the league doesn't know what will happen as a result of it. None of us do.
But handing down a suspension for Rondo takes the uncertain apprehension out of the equation. Players and coaches alike will, once again, understand what the consequences are for engaging in random acts of violence.
And if that's ultimately what comes out of this whole ridiculous debacle, then Rondo can feel free to call himself an innovator, someone who helped the NBA reaffirm its hold on player transgressions or even hold himself in high esteem for allowing the league to assert its dominance. It really doesn't matter.
All that matters is that the NBA makes an example of Rondo, what he did and what should never be done again.
After all, the alternative is potentially staring down the barrel of a second instance, one that turns out worse. One that the NBA knows it could have done more to stop before it even happened.
And where's the justice in that?
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