The NBA must reconsider the definitions of these fouls.
In case you missed it last night, in Denver’s elimination game, the recently crowned league MVP Nikola Jokić was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul on Phoenix guard Cameron Payne, a play that came as he was seemingly frustrated with the refs.
Jokić later said he wanted to “change the rhythm of the game” by taking a hard foul, but he didn’t intend to hit Payne in the face, nor hurt him.
By the textbook definition of the rules, it fit the criteria for a Flagrant 2, but based on the context there’s no way that Jokić should have been ejected from a single-digit elimination game based on that foul. The 7-foot Serbian didn’t have any intention of hurting Payne and he made a play on the basketball. People around the league and basketball fans alike voiced their displeasure of the call and the decision to let Jokić take an early shower.
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Now, the contact was certainly unnecessary. The wind-up itself should have given him a Flagrant 1 and we could have kept it pushing. But to eject Jokić in that situation is just mind-boggling.
The thing about it is, you can’t even fully blame the refs for it, because they are just officiating based on the definition of fouls in the rulebook. The NBA needs to reevaluate the criteria for both levels of flagrant fouls — and allow for more context, so we don’t have situations like what transpired in Denver on Sunday night.
Many will say that this is just a microcosm of how soft the league has become. I don’t think the problem is necessarily softness, as much as it is realizing the basketball context of a situation.
Let’s reevaluate the rules so we give leeway for context in these situations and don’t have MVPs taking early exits from crucial playoff games.