Following Ibaka's painfully placed cheap shot on Blake Griffin, most were expecting the NBA, notorious for its brutal forms of discipline, to suspend the Oklahoma City Thunder forward, even if only for one game.
Ibaka's punishment (or lack thereof) spurred an immediate reaction from two of the game's biggest stars, each questioning the seemingly insubstantial severity of the league's sanction.
So explain to me the difference? My teammate gets a 1 game suspension and 150k+ taking away from him for his groin altercation #strangetome— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 5, 2013
All I can say is WoW....no pun intended but really....and I get suspended and lose 200 grand... #someexplainingtodo— Way of WADE (@DwyaneWade) March 5, 2013
It's difficult to refute the cases that James and Wade make here. Earlier in the season, Wade was suspended for one game after he "inadvertently" kicked the Charlotte Bobcats' Ramon Sessions in the groin. Wade's shot wasn't called as a foul.
Looking at what Ibaka did to Griffin, his hit appears far cheaper than Wade's. Yet Wade was the one who incurred a suspension and thus, a six-figure penalty.
But this isn't about whose low blow was the lowest or whose (if either) was premeditated. This is about the NBA's lack of transparency when it comes to rendering disciplinary verdicts.
At times, it appears the league is keen on handing out suspensions laced with steep fines like they're cheap Halloween candy. Then there are times like these, when the Association almost seems hesitant to be too austere.
Griffin (who might still be icing his groin) suggested that the NBA simply didn't want to hurt the ratings for a nationally televised game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Thunder on Tuesday night.
Blake Griffin insinuated NBA didn't want to suspend Ibaka for hit on him and hurt TV ratings for Lakers-Thunder tonight.Might have a point— janis carr (@janiscarr) March 6, 2013
All accusations aside, this isn't exactly far-fetched. The league was enraged when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sent four of his key players home prior to a nationally syndicated bout against the Miami Heat and fined the team accordingly—10 times more than it did Ibaka.
From that perspective, Griffin's implication makes sense. Then again, the league didn't bat an eye about suspending David Lee of the Golden State Warriors for a prime-time game against the New York Knicks following his involvement in a less-than-animated brawl.
Ibaka's name doesn't carry any more weight than Lee's (the latter is fresh off his second All-Star appearance), so it's difficult to draw a correlation between stature and level of castigation.
Which is a problem. A big one. Monstrous, even.
I'm not suggesting or condoning the use of a system where star players are given preferential treatment, especially when it comes to comeuppance. However, at least then we would have a rhyme or reason behind the NBA's thought process. Presently, we don't.
Where is it in the rulebook that a kick to the groin is worse than a jab? What justification is there behind the league suspending both Roy Hibbert and Lee for what was essentially a shoving match, but not Ibaka for striking Griffin where the sun don't shine? Why is it that Carmelo Anthony following Kevin Garnett to his team bus warrants suspension, but Ibaka emasculating the opposition doesn't?
Should Serge Ibaka have been suspended by the NBA?
These aren't isolated incidents. They've all taken place in the same season, and each debacle culminated in penalties of varying degrees.
Whether said punishments were too harsh or inadequate doesn't matter, and we're not here to justify or discredit them. But the NBA should be.
As bystanders, we don't need to comprehend each individual penance. The players, however, do. Right now, they don't. If they did, LeBron and Wade would have had no reason to question the league's reaction; they wouldn't have had any grounds for inquiry.
Until the NBA sheds some clarity on the methods to its madness, any and all suspensions and fines are subject to question, and the league itself is left open to insurmountable criticism.