Game 5 of the Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat series was an unusually violent melee of flagrant fouls, the most egregious of which was the Heat's Dexter Pittman's vicious elbow against Pacers bench player Lance Stephenson.
There was widespread media speculation that the vicious blow broke Stephenson's collarbone; however, ESPN reported at 11:11pm last night that the x-rays came out negative.
While Stephenson was writhing in pain, Pittman smiled and winked at the Miami Heat bench. Mission accomplished.
While the referees quizzically rendered Pittman's blow a Flagrant 1 foul, thereby permitting the jackal to stay in the game, it was undoubted that the league office would upgrade the foul to a Flagrant 2 and suspend Pittman for a number of games. The only question was just how severe the punishment would be.
The NBA gave its answer today: a perfunctory three-game suspension. That means Pittman will be around for the next round of the playoffs.
When it comes to NBA suspensions, deterrence should be the ultimate goal. One of the reasons that we will never see another NBA player run into the stands and start to brawl with fans is because after the infamous Pacers-Pistons brawl of 2004, David Stern meted out penalties to ensure that this ugly scenario would never happen again.
The same principal should apply to Dexter Pittman's behavior, particularly after his creepy smile and wink directly after the play. A three-game suspension has no deterrent value; it's really not much more than a formality.
If the NBA really cares about the safety of its players, it would have suspended Pittman for the playoffs and 10 games the following season.
Oh well, maybe next time.