NBA Commissioner David Stern needs to have a press conference.
During that conference, he needs to grip the podium tightly and survey the media with the stoic and matter-of-fact nature with which he carries himself. And he needs to say, once and for all:
"Superstars get preferential treatment because they make more money for the league."
Today, without the press conference, he ended up saying it anyway. He said it through action, or rather through inaction, when he refused to upgrade Dwyane Wade's foul on Darren Collison last night from a Flagrant 1 to a Flagrant 2. By letting the call stand, Stern and the NBA proved that stars like Wade are safe from suspensions and ejections because of their ability to bring in ratings and money.
For those who haven't seen the foul, Collison was rushing towards the basket on a fast break with ballhandler Danny Granger. When Granger tossed the ball towards Collison, Wade broke up the pass by driving his shoulder into the back of Collison, sending him sprawling to the floor. Referee Joey Crawford immediately blew his whistle and then went to the sideline to review. When he came back, Wade was given a Flagrant 1 and he was able to stay in the game.
The rulebook is vague when describing the difference in Flagrant 1 and 2, and it is up to the referee to determine if the foul is "excessive" or just "unnecessary." And there wouldn't be any problems with the ambiguous nature of the call if the NBA hadn't set the precedent for this type of foul earlier this year.
In March, there was a foul that was nearly identical in nature to Wade's. Blake Griffin, the Clippers dunktastic superstar, was getting ready to etch another notch in the highlight reel against New Orleans. However, Jason Smith had other ideas, and he used his shoulder to level Griffin to the ground. Smith was immediately issued a Flagrant 2, ejected, and suspended for two games by the league.
There were some differences in the two hits. For one, Smith is smaller than Griffin, and he hit Griffin from the side. Wade is 60 pounds heavier than Collison, and he hit him from the back. From all sides, the foul last night appears to be worse than the foul in March. Factor in that this is a playoff game rather than a meaningless game against a sub-.500 team, and all signs point to Wade getting the Flagrant 2 and an unpaid game off.
But we're forgetting the biggest difference of all: Jason Smith is a relative unknown in the NBA. Dwyane Wade is a superstar.
So Wade gets to play in Game 3 in Indiana, and he continues to earn money and ratings for the league that protects him. Meanwhile, the NBA faces even more scrutiny from fans who want the punishments doled out to be fair and balanced.
Or maybe we just want an admission from Stern, press conference or no, that there are different rules for different players.