The Los Angeles Clippers have been no strangers to ejections in the past week. Last Wednesday night, Clips wing Matt Barnes and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka were ejected for quasi-fighting in what appeared to be an overreaction from officials. The aftermath of that action focused on Barnes's reaction on Twitter (and subsequent fine) rather than the events on the court, but the refs' iffy decision still displayed the difficulties of administering punishment at a time when the league is becoming stricter about what constitutes sportsmanlike play.
On Monday night, the Clippers were at the center of another arguable ejection in their contest against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center. With a little under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Clippers star Chris Paul split an attempted trap at the top of key and drove down the lane. Grizzlies All-Defensive wing Tony Allen slid over to stop him but curiously leapt into the air and raised his left leg despite Paul's showing no indication that he was going to rise up for a shot attempt or pass. In the process, Allen struck Paul clear across the face with his leg in a sort of lower-body clothesline. Although he pleaded his case, Allen earned a flagrant 2 foul and an automatic ejection. The entire play was reminiscent of San Antonio Spurs defender Bruce Bowen's closeout/kick-to-the-face of Minnesota Timberwolves shooter Wally Szczerbiak in 2002, although chances are this kick won't be remembered as the ultimate highlight of Allen's career.
It's possible to see this call as yet another overreaction, because Allen didn't appear to kick Paul with the intention to injure or harm. However, his action was pretty clearly dangerous, because his defensive move didn't appear to be a reaction to any specific move made by Paul. Based on the ejection decision, it seems like the referees are trying to deter players from making dangerous plays even if they don't register as assaultive behavior. It's similar to how a soccer referee may issue a red card for a player raising his cleats even when there's no malice involved. The player receives an ejection because he did something dumb, and the league expects their employees to know better.
This explanation may not be enough to convince old-school basketball fans that Allen deserved this punishment, but it's of a different sort than last week's Barnes-Ibaka kerfuffle. In that case, several players stopped themselves before a heated exchange could become something truly destructive. Allen, on the other hand, acted recklessly without checking himself. He may not have meant any harm, but he still did something that could have caused it.
(Video via @MaxaMillion711)
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