When chasing down Omri Casspi of the Houston Rockets on a fast break, Dirk Nowitzki swung his arm in an attempt to block the ball. Unfortunately, Casspi never lifted the ball as high as Dirk was expecting, causing Dirk’s block attempt to end result in a hard slap to the side of Casspi’s head.
It was clearly not malicious, but it was the kind of play the refs can’t allow without consequences. As such, it made perfect sense when the officials initially called the play a flagrant-1. Upon reviewing the play, as the referees do for every flagrant foul, they decided it should be upgraded to a flagrant-2, which resulted in an automatic ejection for Dirk.
This is where I have a problem. It didn’t really affect the game as it came at the very end of the third quarter, and Dirk has yet to play a single second during the fourth quarter in the preseason this year. He wouldn’t have played anyway, and even if he had, it’s just a preseason game.
But it’s the principle of it. Generally, a flagrant-2 is only called when a player does something that’s either completely out of control, could seriously harm another player or has malicious intentions.
Dirk was clearly in control but just misjudged where the ball would be. By the way, he had four blocks during the game, so he was pretty accurate other than that one play. He had an open hand, so he just ended up slapping Casspi. There wasn’t really any kind of serious danger, and it was very apparent that Dirk was not trying to hurt anyone as he immediately helped Casspi up from the ground following the contact.
To me, there’s just something about calling a player for a flagrant-2. It’s like calling a player dirty or a threat, something Dirk is definitely not. In his entire career, he has been called for a total of nine flagrant fouls and has only been ejected from a game four times.
In the end, this one preseason ejection won’t mean anything, but it just didn’t sit well with me. Dirk is the best Dallas Mavericks player of all time and deserves to be treated with respect. Maybe that means giving him the benefit of the doubt before changing a flagrant-1 to a flagrant-2.