Someone had to be the first to throw a flagrant elbow after the Ron Artest-James Harden incident. And if Vegas had set odds, Charlotte’s Tyrus Thomas, a guy who recently got in a physical confrontation with his coach, might have been one of the favorites. Last night in Washington, he delivered.
No, it wasn’t a violent, or even wholly, apparently intentional blow. If you were following Twitter at the time, you might have even seen comment that Thomas delivered a phantom elbow to the chops of Washington’s James Singleton, that he didn’t really connect. And, perhaps, that the referees had found their first post-Artest victim of hyper-senstitive, swift reaction (although Artest — Metta World Peace – has yet to receive game suspension punishment from the league himself). Let’s watch…
Hard to concretely tell from that video. And personally, I didn’t see the play unfold while attending the game at the Verizon Center. But the refs immediately hit Thomas with a flagrant-2 technical foul and stopped the game for a more in-depth video review. Not long after they were done watching, Thomas was ejected from the game. A muted elbow swing or not, the referees obviously saw enough to make an educated decision. What they heard, however, likely played an even larger role in the punishment than the visuals.
First, let’s see what Thomas had to say after the game, courtesy of TAI’s Adam McGinnis:
And Singleton’s words on the offending elbow:
Yep, you heard right. Or, at least you heard what Singleton said heard… that after some sort of interaction between Thomas and Jan Vesely, Thomas told the ref that, “the next person was going to catch it,” and Singleton says, “he just happened to be a participant.”
And on the legitimacy of the connection?
“Oh, he connected… he connected, I don’t flop,” said Singleton. “It had me a little woozy for a second, but I’m cool.”
Perhaps to Thomas’ credit, Singleton did also say, “I could hear him say, ‘ Oh, I’m sorry’ when he hit me,” and the video clearly shows a remorseful Thomas attempting to approach Singleton.
As far as it being a “basketball play,” there seems to be a debate. Thomas indicates that a basketball play did happen, while Singleton, in post-game comments to McGinnis, said, “If it is not a basketball play, it is not a basketball play.”
The lesson to NBA players is this: basketball play or not, if your elbows are swinging high, you will pay the price of punishment, regardless of intent. Because at that point, the concern is not basketball, but another guy’s head, his brain, his livelihood. And in such cases, the best deterrent from future freely-swinging elbows might be an extra harsh punishment in the present. Don’t say you weren’t warned.