Dwight Howard's 2014-15 season ended on Wednesday night. As he learned Friday, though, being done playing doesn't mean you can't still get suspended.
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A league review of the offensive foul Howard committed on forward Andre Iguodala late in the fourth quarter of the Golden State Warriors' Western Conference finals-ending victory over the Houston Rockets in Wednesday's Game 5 — ruled a common foul on the floor — should have been called a flagrant-1. A retroactive upgrade of the foul means increases the number of "flagrant points" that Howard accrued during the postseason from three to four — you get one point for a flagrant-1 and two for a flagrant-2, and Howard had already committed a pair of flagrant-1s in the postseason.
League rules stipulate that when you pass three flagrant points in the postseason, you've got to sit out your next game ... even if your next game doesn't come until next season.
Here's Howard's forearms-up screen on Iguodala, the play in question:
And here's the announcement of the upgraded penalty, from NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn:
The incident, which was upgraded from a common foul to a Flagrant Foul 1 upon league office review, occurred when Howard made unnecessary contact with his forearm to the neck area of Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala with 3:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 104-90 win over the Rockets on May 27 at Oracle Arena.
Howard will serve his suspension in the first game of the 2015-16 NBA regular season for which he is eligible and physically able to play.
This constitutes something of a makeup call from Thorn and the league office, who elected not to upgrade the flagrant-1 that Howard received for striking Warriors center Andrew Bogut in the face during Houston's Game 4 win:
The decision to let that foul stand as called on the floor seemed curious on its merits; Thorn offered Howard the benefit of the doubt as to whether he maliciously intended to hit Bogut, which A) is the kind of thing you can't really know and B) doesn't render Bogut's chops unsocked. But it did allow Howard to suit up for a closeout game, avoiding any outcry from Rockets fans that the league tipped the scales against the continuation of their comeback by removing one of their two best players from the lineup.
Howard led the Rockets with 18 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and one assist in 42 minutes of work in Game 5. But with James Harden suffering through an unbelievable, historically miserable night, that wasn't enough to once again stave off elimination. In the final analysis, then, the Rockets got beat without any missing-superstar caveat, and justice eventually got served.
Thorn also announced that the league rescinded the technical fouls that Howard and Bogut received in the second quarter of Game 5, which at one point looked like they would result in a one-game suspension for Dwight. That doesn't mean much for Howard at this point, but it clears Bogut's postseason rap sheet — no T's, no flagrants — as he gets set to protect the paint against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals.
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