Rondo, Yao Given Special Treatment in Playoffs' First Round

Nick PoustCorrespondent IIMay 2, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 30: Kirk Hinrich #12 of the Chicago Bulls battles for a loose ball with Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 30, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Celtics 128-127 in triple-overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets center Yao Ming got away with everything possible against the Portland Trail Blazers. He was given the star-treatment by the referees, reasoning why Blazers centers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden were in continuous foul trouble.

Talented, yes, but he was was given more of an opportunity to succeed thanks to the officiating. He camped out in the key for an eternity on offense, which would usually result in a three-second violation. Not on Ming. Oh no, a player of his caliber should never be treated like an ordinary center. Pathetic.

He would use cheap tactics, like grabbing Przybilla’s arm and flail backwards to make it look as if he was being fouled. The referees fell for it time and time again.

On defense it was even worse. They would treat him like fragile, prized asset that couldn’t be harmed, a player that, it seemed, would only be whistled for a foul if a Blazer was bloodied or needed to be carted off on a stretcher.

He initiated contact on drives to the hoop by Brandon Roy, but since he held arms up high to appear innocent, no foul would be called, even though Roy fell hard to the floor multiple times.

Meanwhile, Oden and Przybilla would be called for minimalistic contact. Ming, on one play inparticular in Game Six, clumsily tripped over himself and fell hard to the floor. Because Oden was in the vacinity, a foul was called, sending the rookie center to the bench and Przybilla in to try and deal with Ming’s antics. He had no such luck.

A foul on Ming in Portland was such a rarity that every time it happened a sarcastic cheer rang through the Rose Garden. It was unbelievable what it took for Ming to be whistled.

The referees bias towards Ming and the Rockets was ridiculously blatant. The inconsistencies in what was a foul and what wasn’t cost the Blazers vital possessions and gave the Rockets extra ones.

In light of the the scandal involving Tim Donaghy, an ex-official that plead guilty to two felony charges—conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and for transmitting betting information through interstate commerce—and admitted to rigging many games he officiated, there is no reason not to think the same could have transpired in this series.

Now, I am not going to jump to the conclusion that the officials rigged the series, by any means, but there was certainly some favoritism on the part of those who officiated the four wins by Houston.

Swallowing the whistle is one thing, but when the NBA has the opportunity to punish a player for illegal acts and doesn’t it’s suspicious. Rajon Rondo, the point guard for the Boston Celtics, was also given the benefit of the doubt by referees. In the closing seconds of a Game Five win against the Chicago Bulls, Rondo attempted to stop Brad Miller, who was driving to the hoop, from scoring to tie the game.

Rondo had no chance at blocking Miller’s shot. Yet, he challenged him anyways, jumping as high as he could only to reach his face, which he deliberately swung at. In doing so, he bloodied Miller’s mouth by catching the side of his face and pulling him backwards.

A foul was called, but not the type I was expecting. At least, I thought watching it transpire, a flagrant foul would be called, if not a flagrant-two, which would mean an automatic ejection and presumptive suspension for an upcoming Game Six. There was no flagrant foul, no ejection, nor a suspension. Miller would need stitches following the loss.

The lack of a suspension allowed Rondo to further damage his image. Late in the first quarter of Game Six, he became entangled with Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. This seemed harmless enough—incidental contact. What happened next was deliberate. Rondo grabbed Hinrich’s arm and thrust him aggressively against the press table.

Hinrich retaliated, fists up as if basketball was suddenly a boxing match. Rondo certainly deserved a few punches thrown at him, but referee Sean Corbin separated the two players before any escalation. This meant that Corbin saw everything that happened in these three quick seconds. A flagrant foul was called.

Even this, in my mind, wasn’t enough of a penalty. Rondo knew exactly what he was doing. That’s what made this play, and this player sickening.

The NBA had the chance to upgrade the foul to a flagrant-two, meaning Rondo would be suspended for Game Seven. No such penalty was handed out. The NBA wasn’t about to suspend Rondo, who’s averaging a triple-double in this first-round, for the deciding game in one of the best playoff series ever played.

This is what troubles me the most: how the referees and the NBA can turn a blind eye on the actions of Ming and Rondo, solely because it’s the playoffs and they are two star-caliber players. Players that are evidently worthy of such inexplicable, unfair treatment.


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