In a hard-fought, back-and-forth game last night, the New Orleans Hornets avenged their sole loss of the season by beating the Dallas Mavericks, 99-97. Fittingly, the Hornets sealed the game by stealing the ball from the Mavs' low-class player, Dirk Nowitzki.
If you did not see the game, you may be wondering why I am resorting to name-calling on Herr Dirk.
Allow me to set the stage. Dirk goes in for what should be an easy layup. Emeka Okafor comes from behind and cleanly blocks the shot. As usual, Nowitzki hits the floor with the infamous Dirk Flop. The referee makes no call, as it was a clean block.
Dirk is laying on the floor completely out of bounds with that "I can't believe I did not get a call; I am a superstar!" look on his face while the Hornets start the fast break. Okafor is the last Hornet to start down the court on the break.
Dirk then sticks out his leg and uses his foot like a shepherd's crook to trip Okafor. Wham! Okafor hits the floor face first. The referee blows the whistle.
At first everyone is wondering why the ref blew the whistle and stopped the play. No one was looking behind the play, at least that must have been what Dirk was thinking. Thankfully, one referee blew the whistle on the dirty deed.
After seeing the play on replay, glad as I was that a foul was called, I could not believe that a Flagrant 2 foul was not issued. For those not familiar with flagrant fouls, I will briefly explain the NBA rule.
The flagrant foul rule was created in the 1990s to deter contact which, in addition to being against the rules, puts an opponent's safety and health at risk. The terminology in the NBA rulebook for contact that puts safety and health at risk is unnecessary and/or excessive contact.
The flagrant foul rule is described in several subsections of NBA Rule No. 12. The most extensive section is 12B (Personal Fouls) Section IV (Flagrant Fouls). There are two types of flagrant fouls defined: Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2.
Flagrant 2 is the more serious infraction. A Flagrant 2 foul results in immediate ejection, whereas two Flagrant 1 fouls are required before the player is ejected. Although the delineation between these two rules has evolved, the general distinction has been whether the excessive contact was intentional.
There is no question that what Dirk did was intentional. He should have been slapped with a Flagrant 2 and ejected. Okafor could have been seriously injured. I suppose Nowitzki's "superstar" status protected him.
It was only fitting that as the clock was running out and the Mavs had a chance to tie or win, Hornets forward David West picked Dirk clean during Nowitzki's behind-the-back dribble to ice the game. Talk about poetic justice.
With this low-class move, Dirk has gone to the top of my dirty players list.