NBA: more education on flagrants may be needed

By BRIAN MAHONEY AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK(AP)—After preseason lessons and season-long dialogue with team officials, the man in charge of discipline for the NBA believes players should have an understanding of the league’s flagrant foul rules.

By the end of the weekend, it was clear that wasn’t the case.

So after reading their complaints, Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations, feels more dialogue may be necessary.

“I look at it as opportunity for us to further educate the players as well as the coaches in terms of what a flagrant foul is,” Jackson said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “Certainly the league office has consistently communicated to both the competition committee members, as well as the teams, on an ongoing basis as these fouls occur.

“But if there’s still some uncertainty with respect to what is a flagrant foul, what’s a suspendable offense and what a hard foul is, then it’s incumbent upon us here at the league office to do a better job going forward of educating everyone.”

The NBA has two levels of flagrant fouls: penalty one and penalty two. A penalty one is defined as unnecessary contact. The penalty two is issued if contact is deemed both unnecessary and excessive, and calls for an automatic ejection.

It’s up to the officials to determine if a foul fits either or both criteria, and the definitions of those terms could change from official to official.

“Flagrants in this game, it’s a little gray. There are some gray areas there, and I don’t have a solution,” Houston forward Shane Battier(notes) said.

“A lot of it comes down to judgment calls of the referees. I don’t have a good answer. It would be nice to get some dialogue and get some discussion and some real talk, not just lip service to address it.”

Battier and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant(notes) discussed their frustration with the rule Friday night after Ron Artest’s(notes) flagrant foul against Pau Gasol(notes) in the closing minutes of Los Angeles’ victory over Houston in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Artest was given a penalty two and thrown out, even though players and coaches on both teams thought it was nothing more than a hard foul, at most worthy of a flagrant one. On Saturday, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the league must do a better job of defining the rules.

“Yeah, they have to. Even our guys announcing the games have no idea,” Jackson said. “Is that a foul? Is that a flagrant one, is that a flagrant two? Then, they’re surprised when it’s a flagrant two, or no foul at all. Obviously, they’re the guys who see replays a lot of times before we see them. I haven’t even seen the replay on Artest’s foul on Pau. It didn’t look flagrant two to me.”

Stu Jackson agreed, and later Saturday downgraded the play to a flagrant one, reducing by one the flagrant foul points against Artest. A player is suspended one game in the postseason once he reaches four flagrant foul points.

But that would have done the Rockets no good if the foul had been committed in the opening minutes and they had to go without their leading scorer for nearly an entire playoff game.

Before the player is ejected, the referees must review a video of the play to ensure that the flagrant two was warranted. Even though the league office later decided the Artest play wasn’t, Stu Jackson believes the replay system would usually prevent the officials from getting it wrong.

“Certainly with respect to flagrant foul penalty ones and all fouls in general, the referees have to make decisions in split tenths of a second,” he said. “When you’re evaluating the severity of the contact, that’s a daunting task and isn’t always easy to do. That’s why the league office evaluates flagrant fouls postgame to confirm them.”

Jackson said the league is discussing ways it can offer more education before the playoffs are over, but deeper information probably won’t come until next fall. He said the preseason meetings the referees operations department holds with each team may include a segment just on flagrant fouls.

And perhaps there won’t be such confusion by this time next season.

“Throughout the season I spend an inordinate amount of time speaking with teams, primarily GMs and coaches, when they inquire about flagrant fouls as to the reasons a given play was evaluated the way it was,” Jackson said. “But if there’s still uncertainty, we need to do more.”


AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan in Houston contributed to this report.

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Updated Monday, May 11, 2009