The Ridiculousness of Flagrant Foul Interpretations
OK, a lot of talk about whether the Rajon Rondo foul on Brad Miller should have been called a flagrant. We've got two cents to pitch in.
First, for the record, here is an excerpt from the official NBA rules:
- Section IV--Flagrant Foul
a. If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul--penalty (1) will be assessed.
- Flagrant Fouls: These fouls are considered unnecessary and/or excessive. There are two types of flagrant fouls, 1 and 2. A flagrant 1 is unnecessary contact. This is usually when a defensive player swings and makes hard contact with the offensive player or makes hard contact and then follows through.
Did Rondo deserve a flagrant foul, based on the letter and spirit of the rule? Yes, absolutely. He did not make a play on the ball, and made unnecessary and dangerous contact with Miller's head.
Did Rondo deserve a flagrant foul, based on the way the rule is consistently interpreted? No, absolutely not. The ridiculousness of the flagrant-foul interpretation is that, in practice, it is determined almost entirely by whether the fouled player hits the floor in an awkward, scary-looking manner, and Miller ultimately did not hit the floor that hard.
Many times, you'll see a guy go for a legitimate blocked shot on a breakaway, and get called for a ridiculous flagrant ONLY b/c of the way the fouled player falls. I had been planning to write this all day, and then lo and behold we got a textbook example of this tonight.
Go to the :58 mark in the highlight package from tonight's Hawks-Heat game:
Dwyane Wade, one of the best shotblocking guards ever, attempts to chase down Maurice Evans for the block, and doesn't miss by much in what is unquestionably a legitimate attempt at a block. Evans hits the floor hard and in a strange manner. Wade gets a flagrant, and in NO WAY does he deserve one, but that's how it's consistently called.
Two nights ago, in the Hornets-Nuggets bloodbath, I actually thought that the Anthony Carter foul on Rasual Butler did deserve a flagrant. The play can be seen at about the 1:28 mark here:
I thought Carter had no chance to make the block and came in from behind mainly to push Butler in the back in a dangerous manner. I understand, this one's borderline, I can understand if you disagree. But still, I think the key factor in not awarding a flagrant here was that Butler landed normally. In any event, there's no way - no way - that this was a more legitimate block attempt than D-Wade's.
The problem with the rule, in my opinion, is entirely based in how it is interpreted in practice. Call the flagrant based on whether the contact is unnecessary and excessive, not on whether the fall is scary and awkward.