Rajon Rondo pleads for the NBA to reconsider. (Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports)
The NBA announced Monday afternoon that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has been suspended one game without pay "for making contact with a game official and failure to cooperate with a league investigation." He'll serve his suspension on Monday night, taking him out of his team's matchup with the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The suspension handed down by NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson stems from this play, which took place during the third quarter of Boston's 89-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday:
With the Celtics leading 61-60, Hawks guard Lou Williams missed a 3-pointer, which Boston rookie Jared Sullinger rebounded and handed off to Rondo. The Celtics point guard pushed the ball the length of the court, chased by Atlanta defender Josh Smith. As Rondo reached the left elbow, Smith readied to cut in front of Rondo to impede his progress; Rondo bumped into Smith with his right shoulder, bounced back and tossed a shot toward the rim, aiming to get to the free-throw line for being fouled in the act of shooting. Instead, referee Rodney Mott whistled Rondo for an offensive foul.
This prompted the seventh-year veteran to approach the official to plead his case; in the process, he bumped his chest and shoulder into Mott's left arm. Rondo was not assessed a technical foul or any discipline outside of the offensive foul on the play; he finished Saturday's game with a triple-double, scoring 14 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, dishing 10 assists and notching three steals in the win. When the league reviewed the play, however — apparently at the behest of Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who received a $15,000 fine on Monday for "inappropriate interaction with the game officials following the game" — apparently Jackson determined that additional measures needed to be taken.
This marks Rondo's second suspension of the season; he was suspended for two games for his role in a Nov. 28, 2012, scuffle between the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. It's also his fourth suspension in less than one year — the 26-year-old Kentucky product missed two games back in February 2012 after being ejected for throwing a ball at a referee, and he missed Game 2 of the Celtics' first-round playoff series against these same Hawks after being ejected for bumping referee Marc Davis.
While there's something ridiculous about how the wording of the NBA's statement makes Rondo sound like a renegade cop from a bad '80s action flick who just won't fall in line with his lieutenant — "failure to cooperate with a league investigation?" really? — it's difficult to look at these repeated incidents with referees as anything other than poor decisions made without consideration for how it impacts his team's chances of winning games. As Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski wrote after Rondo's November ejection, his combustible behavior has begun to result too frequently in negative consequences and disciplinary actions, especially when directed at officials; Rondo's got a reputation now, and even when it's not sitting down to miss a game, that rep doesn't do him or his team any favors.
Rondo's absence likely means an increased ball-handling and playmaking load for Paul Pierce, as well as greater responsibility for the likes of the just-back-from-injury Avery Bradley, reserve guard Jason Terry and possibly Leandro Barbosa, who recently returned to the team after missing more than a week to travel back to Brazil to tend to a family matter. All of them are capable of chipping in for the night, but none of them are Rondo. Sitting at 16-17, seven games out of the Atlantic Division lead and in line for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics need wins, accountability and leadership; they sure didn't this.
Video of the bump via theassociation.