The NBA has fined Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva $25,000 for a flagrant foul he committed on Tuesday against Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, league executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson announced on Wednesday afternoon.
The foul occurred just before halftime of Tuesday night's Kings/Pistons matchup at The Palace of Auburn Hills. With both the shot and game clock winding down, Kings swingman John Salmons passed the ball to Thomas on the left wing. Thomas drove around a rotating Tayshaun Prince and made his way to the lane, but arrived too late, with the 24-second buzzer going off before he could let loose a potential buzzer-beating floater.
Thomas was, however, just in time to get clobbered in the air by Villanueva, whose attempted contest of the forthcoming shot resulted in his right forearm hitting Thomas on the left arm and his hand coming through to catch Thomas in the face as he fell. The 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore, as you might expect, did not take too kindly to the contact from the 6-foot-11, 240-pound UConn product and noted boxing enthusiast:
After Kings center DeMarcus Cousins stepped in the middle to keep the peace — no, seriously — the officials separated the players, Sacramento coach Keith Smart shepherded his point guard away, Villanueva returned to the Pistons bench and everyone awaited the refs' ruling on the play. The result: a flagrant foul 2 for contact determined "unnecessary and excessive," triggering Villanueva's automatic ejection and a forthcoming fine of no less than $1,000 from the league office. The eighth-year veteran had nine points, one rebound, one steal, one block and one assist in 11 minutes of play before getting the gate.
After the game — which the Pistons won 103-97 behind strong outings from the inside-out combo of center Greg Monroe (18 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two blocks) and point guard Brandon Knight (20 points, four assists) and sharp reserve play from the likes of rookie Andre Drummond, spark plug Will Bynum and improving tweener Austin Daye, who hit a 3-pointer with 11.5 seconds remaining to seal the win — Thomas vented his frustration at not only the foul, but also Villanueva's play in general, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee:
The Kings said it wasn't the first hard foul by Villanueva. Thomas said the fact he was airborne on the play wasn't the worst part for him.
"No, it was just the fact that it was a dirty play and he's a dirty player," Thomas said. "It is what it is. He got kicked out of the game, so it wasn't nothing big. A lot of guys do stuff like that knowing you can't really fight in this league, so it's all right." [...]
Thomas appeared to take a swing at Villanueva but denied doing that.
"I didn't swing on him," he said. "That's one thing I didn't do. In the heat of the battle, in the heat of the moment, it is what it is."
The potential swing in question appeared to come right after Thomas sprang up to get in Villanueva's face, when the Pistons' Knight grabbed Thomas from behind to hold him back, Villanueva had his left arm up on Thomas' shoulder to keep the point guard at bay, and Thomas raised his right arm, with what appeared to be a clenched fist, toward Villanueva's head before bringing it back down to remove Villanueva's arm.
You could read that as a swing or as just trying to get a much taller man's hand off you; the league office, apparently, agreed with Thomas' claim when they reviewed the tape of the incident, as he received no penalty or punishment in the matter.
As it turned out, Ben Golliver of SI.com's The Point Forward was correct in assuming that Jackson wouldn't levy an overly harsh fine or suspension on Villanueva, "because Villanueva didn’t appear to cleanly and directly strike Thomas in the head or neck, Thomas was able to continue playing, and the foul did not lead to any serious pushing or shoving afterwards." Villanueva's fine is $10,000 less than the $35,000 penalty that Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard had to pay for the flagrant-2 hit he laid on Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets last week.
If the video above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to check out the foul and its aftermath elsewhere, thanks to XK Cheung.