Yes ... Grayson Allen got off light
This week's Tuesday Newsletter Extravaganza contains my explanation, as promised, for why Milwaukee's Allen should have been suspended for more than one game for his reckless foul on Alex Caruso
The Chicago Bulls announced on Saturday that Alex Caruso would miss six to eight weeks after a flagrant foul from Milwaukee's Grayson Allen dumped an airborne Caruso hard onto the floor and left him with a broken right wrist.
Later Saturday word was circulated to various inquiring NBA reporters that the severity of Caruso's injury would factor into Allen's punishment.
That means the sanction for Allen, if Caruso's sudden unavailability for up to two months was indeed a decisive variable, went from no suspension to a one-game suspension.
Marc Stein @TheSteinLineThe NBA announces just a one-game suspension for Milwaukee’s Grayson Allen for the foul that left Chicago’s Alex Caruso with a broken wrist. https://t.co/kwAQQoTGZd
I tweeted Sunday that Allen should have been suspended for three games rather than one and promised to expound on my reasoning here to ensure that there would be no shortage of runway. My expanded view:
I did not advocate for a three-game suspension for Allen because I believe it is the most heinous foul ever on a player flying toward the rim ... or because there are screenshots on social media that appear to show Allen smiling after the clash ... or because of his apparent lack of remorse to date … or because I have issues with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is simply about the league making it a point to acknowledge that Caruso's lengthy absence could not be ignored when calculating Allen's punishment. I felt it thus had to sit Allen for at least three games to live up to that pledge and send a representative message that the foul was overly reckless and especially costly for the Bulls.
No reasonable person ever expected the NBA to rule that Allen must sit out as long as Caruso is sidelined. It was likewise just the second flagrant foul of Allen's four-year NBA career, despite the considerable reputational baggage he carries from his Duke days and some summer league missteps.
The issue here is that the league’s assurance that Caruso's fate would be part of the suspension calculus suggested in advance that Allen would receive more than a wrist slap.
A one-game ban for a foul that featured a nasty second swipe at Caruso with Allen's right arm — pretty much eradicating any "play on the ball" defense after Allen had already contested the drive with his left arm — amounts to a wrist slap.
Perhaps Bucks fans will recall that I applied similar logic in December when the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat absorbed nominal penalties for their "jumping the gun" violations in free agency with regard to the sign-and-trade acquisitions of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry.
In December 2020, Milwaukee was docked only one future second-round pick in part because, as the NBA explained in a widely distributed statement at the time, its "jumping the gun" transgressions in pursuit of Bogdan Bogdanović did not result in the Bucks actually acquiring Bogdanović.
The direct implication from the league was that the penalty would have been more severe had the Bucks landed Bogdanović. Then in December 2021, Chicago and Miami received the exact same sanctions as Milwaukee did even though the Bulls and the Heat got the free agents they were jumping the gun for.
The point of my December piece was not to single out Chicago or Miami in a league where "jumping the gun" tampering, if we zero in on that designation, is rampant.
I'm just looking for the NBA to do what it says it's going to do.
If Milwaukee had to forfeit a second-round pick even after missing out on Bogdanović, then Chicago and Miami, by definition, should have received a stiffer penalty when those teams did end up acquiring the marquee free agents they were chasing.
And if the Bulls' long-term loss of Caruso really mattered in the Allen case, as we were told it would, then Allen needed to get a minimum three-game suspension ... or something beyond a paltry one-game ban.
I'm not the only one who feels this way, either. I've heard from a handful of rival teams, with no stake in the matter beyond watching intently for the NBA’s reaction after the Bulls so vociferously complained about Allen's actions, that expected Allen to be punished harder as a deterrent to future foulers.
We shouldn't have. Throughout David Stern's three-decade reign as NBA commissioner, it was often said that the suspensions and fines he meted out were too long or overly harsh. In the Adam Silver Era, punishments consistently fall on the short side.
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A few more things …
One of the reflexive reactions to the Allen/Caruso incident has been fan howling that Denver’s Nikola Jokić should have received a much stiffer penalty from the league for his shove from behind on Miami’s Markieff Morris that has sidelined Morris (neck) for more than 30 games. I agree (to a degree) and wrote at the time that Jokić got off easy with a mere one-game suspension, but these situations aren’t at all similar. Beyond the fact that their tangle was at floor level far from the rim, Morris instigated the conflict with Jokić by bodychecking him at midcourt and then turning his back on the Serbian. What did Caruso instigate?
Trend to monitor: Teams are feeling uncharacteristically emboldened to publicly clap back at the league office after rulings they disagree with. How far will this go?
The Heat did it on Dec. 1 after they were docked a second-round pick when the NBA completed its investigation of the Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry sign-and-trades:
Then the Bucks followed suit after Allen was suspended one game without pay.In a rare move, the Milwaukee Bucks make a statement decrying the NBA’s one game suspension of Grayson AllenYeah I’ve heard coaches or GMs verbally disagree with suspensions, fines etc. but I never remember a team putting out a statement.
3. Let’s close the Grayson Allen portion of today’s proceedings with this:
Marc Stein @TheSteinLineThis should have been a minimum three-game suspension for the Bucks' Allen -- especially after it was confirmed Saturday that the NBA would factor in the severity of Caruso's injury -- but such a mild sanction is already sparking surprise from various teams observing from afar. https://t.co/xFgoVi9A7N
This tweet from a dismayed Bucks fan was forwarded to me as (I'm guessing here) supposed evidence of me being too hard on Allen and the small-market Bucks compared to my clear, long-running favoritism for the big-market teams like the Lakers.
Impressive work to dig up a tweet that is more than 10 years old (which I’ve enclosed in full below), but something has clearly been lost in translation in all that time.
There was only one reason that the word "playoff" was used as an adjective for the Andrew Bynum foul in question — because the foul took place during the playoffs and Bynum’s suspension was deferred until the following regular season.
While "his foul in the playoffs" certainly would have been better wording in the original tweet, it was published during Twitter's 140-character era and brevity was a necessary evil. Count up the characters and you'll see there was no room for more words.
There was no opinion or commentary of any kind in that tweet. It was a factual tweet at the start of the 2011-12 season reminding people that Bynum would have to miss games at the start of that new season — which, remember, began on Christmas after a lockout — because of a “playoff foul” and suspension.
I'm truly baffled as to how that tweet could be interpreted as criticism of the length of Bynum's suspension or a justification for such a bad foul. And, again, I'm even more baffled as to how so many Bucks fans so readily fixated on that ancient tweet while not a soul I've seen has pointed to the aforementioned article I wrote less than two months ago about how wronged Milwaukee was by the fact Chicago and Miami were so meekly penalized after a league investigation into sign-and-trades headlined by Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry. I’ve put the link here in case you wish to give it a refresher read.
Listen, friends: My rooting interest in the NBA essentially vaporized in 1978 when the Buffalo Braves were allowed to swap rosters with the Boston Celtics and move to San Diego … which I’m still not over. Call me anti-Bucks if you wish, but I'm not rooting for or against your team. I'm an NBA scribe. That means I root for hotels and restaurants and flight upgrades.
I also know some readers won't believe that, which is fine. That's part of the job and I get it. I probably should have just left this one alone, because there's much said via NBA Twitter that is best ignored, but I decided to provide the transparency @AllTheBucks and some other Milwaukee fans asked for because I was at such a loss to understand how that old tweet generated a This You? reaction.
Perhaps I should leave this invite here every Tuesday.
Consider this section our virtual suggestion box to discuss content ideas … NBA and otherwise.
What would you like to read more of in 2022? Or less of? What do you really think of my (largely pretend) idea to launch a complementary coffee Substack? Or a Substack about BlackBerrys?
I've got a lot of things planned already in terms of stories I hope to tackle in coming months, but I would love to hear your ideas either in the comments below or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
It has been 24 difficult months since we lost No. 24. Wednesday marks two years since the tragic death of the incomparable Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, her Team Mamba teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester, Alyssa’s parents John and Keri Altobelli, Payton’s mother Sarah Chester, assistant coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. Kobe was 41.
(Enclosed in this tweet is a link to my New York Times piece from the one-year anniversary of the crash in January 2021 on Kobe’s influence as a coach of former rival Zach Randolph’s daughter MacKenly.)
andrea zagata @zagatamIn tomorrow’s @NYTSports https://t.co/JtJf8kN1lY https://t.co/Pgi4GluqYL
Golden State is only 6-7 this season when Draymond Green is absent through injury. The Warriors are 28-6 with Green, who is worryingly out until February at the earliest with a calf injury that the team says stems from the "involvement of a disc" in his lower back.
LeBron James is attempting 7.9 3-pointers per game for the Lakers, nearly two more 3s than his previous career high (6.3 per game in each of the previous two seasons). James is a career 34.5% shooter from long distance and is converting 35.5% this season.
Indiana has signed Lance Stephenson to four 10-day contracts already this season — two 10-day hardship deals and two standard 10-day contracts. When the latest deal expires on Feb. 2, Stephenson must be signed for the rest of the season to stay unless the Pacers have another player who enters the league's health and safety protocols at that time. NBA teams are allowed to make hardship signings through Feb. 17; Indiana has persisted with 10-day contracts with Stephenson to maintain maximum roster flexibility in case it needs an extra spot to complete a deal before the Feb. 10 trade deadline. It has long been expected that Stephenson will ultimately sign no less than a rest-of-the-season deal with the Pacers after this extended 10-day dance.
Boston's Jayson Tatum, with two 50-point games last season and another Sunday, trails only Golden State's Stephen Curry (four) in that span. Washington's Bradley Beal and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid have two each dating to last season.
Good find by my pal Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News: Jakob Poeltl, selected No. 9 overall by Toronto in 2016, is the highest draftee on the Spurs' roster. Only three other teams in the league have no player who was selected with a top-eight draft pick: Milwaukee, Indiana and the LA Clippers. The Bucks, of course, landed Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick in 2013, while the Clippers used free agency and the trade market to acquire two perennial All-Stars drafted in the same range: Kawhi Leonard (drafted No. 15 in 2011 by Indiana on San Antonio's behalf) and Paul George (No. 10 overall in 2010, also by Indiana).
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich turns 73 on Friday. The only other NBA coaches in their 70s in league history were Hubie Brown (71 when left the Memphis Grizzlies early in the 2004-05 season), Larry Brown (who was 70 when he parted company with Charlotte early in 2010-11) and lovable Lakers lifer Bill Bertka (for one game in 1999 at age 71). Popovich needs nine more wins this season to supplant his friend Don Nelson as the NBA's all-time winningest regular-season coach.