After Thursday's dustup between Heat forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen and the elder Hansbrough formerly known as Psycho T, the league allowed Birdman to finish out the rest of the game. Yesterday night, the NBA announced they're suspending Birdman without pay for the sixth game of the series. That is bullshit.
That's not to say, of course, that Birdman pushing Hansbrough wasn't egregious and dirty deserving of punishment, or that watching Hansbrough stare directly into the eyes of the physical embodiment of his pre-pine-riding id didn't make for enrapturing television. Birdman should've been kicked out of the game, and he should be suiting up today.
Why? Precedent. Steve Kerr, of all people, eloquently got to the heart of the issue on Twitter last night when he wrote:
Count me in the minority on the reaction to the Birdman suspension. An ejection from the game? Okay. A one game suspension? I don't get it.— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) June 1, 2013
Nazi Mohammed didn't get suspended for doing the same thing as Anderson (and more excessively). Shouldn't suspensions be about precedent?— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) June 1, 2013
We concur, Steve. Last series, Nazr Mohammed was ejected in the first half for shoving LeBron James. James reacted with maybe the most famous of his many ridiculous flops in this postseason alone, and Mohammed was gone.
He played the next game, though. That feels like a pretty solid precedent. But on Thursday, the referees took their time, looked at the replay of the Birdman-Hansbrough mini-scrap, and decided, for some reason, that it wasn't an ejectable offense, even though it almost definitely was. And by suspending Birdman from tonight's contest, it feels suspiciously like the refs are trying to correct their decision to keep Anderson in game five. And that is bullshit.
Birdman won't be reinstated, though, which means Miami will have to find a way to win without him. It's hard to really predict how much of an effect his absence will have. He's a perfect 15-15 from the field for the series, is one of their best rebounders under the basket with Chris Bosh languishing, and most vitally, represents 20 minutes of rest for the starters and six hard fouls. But...the guy tallied zero points and two rebounds last game, and the Heat did just fine. Because they have LeBron.
Joel Anthony will likely take Birdman's place, who himself is a poor man's Birdman, just without much of Andersen's rebounding ability, any of his tattooed charm, and almost no hope of scoring around the rim. But he runs, so there's that. And he can clog passing lanes, and most vitally, he represents rest for the starters and six hard fouls. Miami Heat will probably be OK. Even if they do lose tonight, no one's going to blame Anthony—or Birdman, for that matter.
Tipoff is at 8:30.
Photo Credit: Getty