Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris has been suspended one regular-season game for elbowing Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in the face, the NBA announced today. The play occurred during the third quarter of Tuesday's preseason game in Phoenix. Morris was ejected at the time for the incident, but the league decided that his actions warranted further punishment.
The decision is a bit surprising. As the video shows, Morris clearly caught Ibaka with his elbow:
However, the intent and degree of the blow are hard to read. Ibaka appears to sell the contact a bit, and Morris could have just been making a (marginally) natural motion while attempting to box out during a free throw. In most circumstances, it would be expected that Morris wouldn't miss a game after this kind of play. Of course, there was contact, so it's not as if the decision is totally shocking.
Yet the suspension is worth noting anyway, because the NBA's attitude towards and policing of on-court altercations continues to change. Throughout the 2012-13 season, suspensions and fines seemed quite inconsistent, with penalties handed out without a clear sense of what players could expect after any one altercation. It's the league's prerogative to assess things on a case-by-case basis, but it did not inspire much confidence in the system itself.
The Morris suspension is only one event, so we can't know if it signals a more stringent policy or an outlying case. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, the best we can hope for is consistency.
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