It must be exceptionally difficult to officiate NBA games. That's the only explanation as to why Chris Andersen wasn't ejected with a Flagrant-2 foul call after taking out Tyler Hansbrough in the second quarter of Game 5 of
href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/teams/indiana-pacers" class="sbn-auto-link">Pacers vs. Heat on Thursday. The initial hit could have been simply a Flagrant-1 -- Andersen shoulder-checked Hansbrough to the ground as the two ran back down the court. (There was no evident contact between the two on the rebound. Andersen was actually knocked a bit by Roy Hibbert as the two jockeyed for the ball.)
Then, as the GIF below shows, Birdman walked (err, fluttered?) over to Hansbrough as the Pacer got back to his feet. Andersen's intent? Apparently, to yell in Hansbrough's face and eventually give him a two-handed shove to the chest that sent Psycho T reeling backwards.
A Flagrant-2 is typically reserved for totally egregious plays. But the immediate comparison that comes to mind is Nazr Mohammed's ejection from Game 3 of Bulls vs. Heat. Andersen did literally the same thing Mohammed did. The only difference is that Hansbrough didn't sell it and go sprawling to the ground. He fell safely into the warm embrace of Roy Hibbert.
And Mohammed's shove didn't come after he took out his foe (LeBron James, in this case)! So, Birdman deserved a Flagrant-1 for the hockey foul on Hansbrough, and then did something that recently got a player ejected on its own. Yet Andersen walked away with the Flagrant-1 and a double technical. He stayed in the game, and finished with four points, four rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes.
BUT THERE'S MORE.
Then referee Marc Davis had to keep Birdman from ... I don't know, shoving Hansbrough again? Andersen did the fugazy "I'd totally be beating your ass if this much smaller man wasn't holding me back!" thing, struggling against Davis' force. Davis was trying to push Andersen back toward the Heat bench and away from the Pacers and Hansbrough.
Isn't struggling against a ref some flavor of contact with a game official? Usually it's teammates who get between players and push them back.
Which brings up a lasting question in this scuffle: where are the rest of the Heat players? Those on the bench at the beginning of the incident have to stay on the bench, of course. But there were four other Heat players on the court, and not one of them rushed to protect Birdman from himself or the Pacers. Norris Cole is in the area and casually follows the action. Andersen has been "pushed" back to almost midcourt before a Heat assistant runs up to take over babysitting duty from the ref.
I don't blame the assistant for getting there a bit late -- he has to make sure the Heat bench stays in its place; that's what coaches have been trained to do in these incidents. The Miami players already on the floor, though -- Cole, LeBron, Ray Allen and Shane Battier -- need to make sure their teammate doesn't do anything (else) stupid. The broadcast video of the incident shows the lack of interest by other Heatians.
The undercurrent of this whole fracas is that Birdman a) is prone to do this kind of useless crap and b) has been working on Hansbrough all series long. From Game 1:
So often fans long for the days of the '80s and '90s, when hard fouls were hard, bullpucky was not tolerated because teams had enforcers like Charles Oakley and even stars like Larry Bird and Karl Malone weren't above sticking an elbow in an opponent's ribs for no good reason. But when I see stuff like what Birdman is pulling, I'm glad we've largely removed the violence from the NBA, because in these times with these players, it just comes off as pathetic.
Birdman is clearly looking for a fight with Hansbrough, and the NBA ought to reward that with a one-game vacation. There is no greater good in Andersen's pursuit, only extra pressure on the already tightly-wound referees and a drag on what has been an exciting series. Fly away, Birdman. Fly away.