Kevin Garnett pushed a referee.
And he will live to see game Five.
Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw got suspended one game just for leaving the bench in the 2007 playoffs after Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash. Kobe Bryant got suspended one game in the regular season for following through after getting fouled and making contact with Manu Ginobili’s face.
I’ll say it again. Kevin Garnett pushed a referee, and is not receiving a single game suspension.
In case you haven’t seen the clip, find it on YouTube. As you will plainly see, this is no friendly push. Garnett was doing his best Reggie White, moving the offensive lineman out of the way on his way to the quarterback.
You can say it was just a result of the build up of frustration from a Game Three loss and poor start to Game Four. But there is no excuse for pushing a referee, and Garnett and the Celtics should have to pay the price.
It’s not like there isn’t precedence in this case. Nick Van Exel was suspended seven games in 1996 for shoving referee Ron Garretson over the scorer’s table after receiving a technical foul. Just a few weeks later, teammate Magic Johnson—yes that Magic Johnson—was suspended three (3!) games for chest bumping referee Scott Foster.
On top of this, the NBA rule book, available for anyone in the world to view on NBA.com clearly states: “Any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game. A fine and/or longer period of suspension will result if circumstances so dictate.”
The contact in this case is about as intentional as you can get. Referee Ed Rush was doing his best to keep Garnett from pounding in the face of the Hawks’ Zaza Pachulia, putting himself in harm’s way while doing so. Even worse, Commissioner David Stern was at the game, watching it all unfold in person!
Discussing the suspensions of Stoudemire and Diaw during last year’s playoffs, Stern was quoted as saying, "Historically, if you break [the rule], you will get suspended, regardless of what the circumstances are."
"It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness."
Unquestionably, if Stern were a man of his word, which we have seen in the past isn’t the case, Garnett should be suspended.
(Let me rant for a minute. For evidence of Stern not being a man of his word, check out interviews in 1995 of him at the Sonics’ brand new Key Arena. Amazing what a difference 12 years makes. SAVE OUR SONICS!)
So what makes this situation any different?
It is clear that Stern does not want to handicap the Celtics as they prepare to make a run at the Finals. The Celtics are a great, storied franchise, which is great for the NBA. But not if they have to bend and break the rules to have success.
I understand that the NBA is a business. The league is going to make much more money off of a Celtics-Lakers final than a Pistons-Spurs final. But that does not excuse a non-suspension for the Celtics superstar. The fact that Garnett does not get suspended for even one game is another example of the nonsensical acts performed by the twisted leaders of the NBA.
The referees in the NBA have one of the hardest jobs in professional sports. Especially after the Donaghy scandal, the referees did a spectacular job earning back the trust of players, coaches, and fans this past season. They may have saved the credibility of the league, something that Stern should surely appreciate.
Now it’s Stern’s turn to return the favor, and get behind his refs.