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Post-game Reactions

Cleveland commentators have accused Glen Davis of playing dirty by tugging on Shaq’s thumb moments after Davis injured that thumb on a shot block attempt. Those commentators came to that conclusion after television replays (which we’ll look at below) clearly showed Davis grabbing Shaq’s thumb.

In an interview with the Boston Herald this weekend, Baby claimed the replays were taken out of context—that the the thumb-grabbing they showed happened before the shot block that initially hurt Shaq’s thumb. Here’s Baby:

“I was like, ‘That’s false,’ ” Davis said. “They edited that. That was before he hurt his hand.”

Baby also claimed he and Shaq—who have known each other for years via the LSU connection—have a playful relationship, and that while he might try to (playfully) irritate Shaq during games, he’d never hurt the Diesel on purpose.

But who’s right about the timing of the alleged thumb tug (which, regrettably, sounds like something dirty).

Well, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. The shot block took place at the 7:37 mark of the 2nd quarter, according to play-by-play data. Shaq left the game 39 seconds later. Over those 39 seconds, Cleveland had the ball twice sandwiched around one Boston possession.

The first Cavs possession lasted four seconds, and there’s no evidence of any thumb-wrestling during Boston’s possession.

That leaves the last Cleveland possession.

Let’s fire up the video machine in the crime lab to see what evidence we have against Baby.

Let’s start with the slow-mo replay the commentators used to convict Baby without a trial:

Take note of a few pieces of evidence:

1) Davis starts the clip playing Shaq from the side in a sort of half-front, leaning on Shaq’s left shoulder. Baby’s left arm is reaching across Shaq’s stomach and grabbing Shaq’s right hand;

2) There is a referee standing directly behind Shaq at the start of the clip. After a few seconds, the referee moves to his right along the baseline—or right-to-left on our televisions;

3) Jawad Williams cuts across the foreground from left to right;

4) Tony Allen jogs about a step behind Williams;

5) As the clip proceeds, Shaq and Baby (but especially Shaq) shift their field of vision from the top of the key over to the left wing (i.e. their heads turn right to left on our TV screens);

6) As the clip ends, Davis rotates into a position that is more nearly a traditional fronting stance.

Got all that? Good. Now, let’s watch the possession in question—that second Cleveland possession—in its in-game context (note the time time/score on the bottom of the screen) to see if it matches up with the thumb-tugging replay:

Admit it, guys: This does not look good for Glen Davis. We’ve got Baby leaning on Shaq’s left shoulder; Mo Williams taking the ball from the top of the key to the left wing;  the official on the baseline moving right to left; Jawad Williams cutting across above the foul line, followed by Tony Allen a step behind; and increased jostling as Mo readies to throw his entry pass to Shaq.

One other note: You can see a photographer in a light blue shirt snapping photos in the first clip. If you look really carefully, you can see a person who appears to be that same photographer in the same photo-shooting position in the second clip—right behind the official strolling by on the baseline.

Am I missing an on obvious difference between the two clips that exonerates Baby? I sort of hope I am, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a mistake in life.

But after a bunch of viewings, this appears to be pretty decent evidence that Glen Davis a) tugged on Shaq’s thumb after he knew it was banged up; and b) fibbed about in the Herald or honestly misremembered the chronology of the game when talking to the Herald reporter who did the story.

Our own Brendan Jackson points out two things in Baby’s defense: 1) So much jostling and shady contact happens in a basketball game that Baby really could have no honest and accurate memory of when he grabbed Shaq’s thumb—and he could have done it on multiple possessions. (My response to Brendan is that grabbing Shaq’s thumb on purpose seems like a weird thing to just randomly do, though we’ve seen Reggie Evans and others do some, umm, possibly inappropriate grabbing); and 2) Shaq does not appear visibly upset or pained by the thumb grab, and (as commenter Isuhornet17 points out) didn’t ask out of the game until he caught Williams’ entry pass on this play and tried to grip the ball.

Then again, he’s having surgery and will miss two months, and it’s unknown whether the thumb-grab had any aggravating effect.

I still hope someone can exonerate Baby here.

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Zach Lowe

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  • w2

    Cavs fans should be sending Baby a thank you card. Cavs minus Shaq is just downright nasty, fun, and effective basketball.

  • lsuhornet17

    Shaq and Baby have known each other for years and have been friendly. They met when baby was still in high school in Baton Rouge and was known as “Baby Shaq.” I seriously doubt there was any dubious intentions there. Also, does Shaq seem like the type of guy that would hold his tongue if something shady was going on or if he felt he was wronged? He’s a pretty outspoken guy, and calls out people routinely who do a lot less than trying to intentionally injure him. From what I remember, Shaq didn’t come out the game until he received the ball and tried to grip it, then realizing he couldn’t, he called a timeout. Video appears to support the theory, but I smell BS.

  • @Isuh: Yeah, Baby cited his relationship with Shaq in that Boston Herald story, saying they have a sort of playful relationship. And you’re right that Shaq doesn’t appear too perturbed about the tugging.

  • Jay P

    w2 is absolutely right. Especially with Jamison now, they can play a run and gun fast paced offense that is just downright scary.

  • slam

    We need Shaq to come out and tell Cleveland fans to shutup, and that what Davis did was nothing but accidental (the incident itself), and playful (anything else)

  • Greg

    I would say that Shaq will give him a hard foul when next he plays, but since the Celts will already be out of the playoffs when Shaq gets back, it will have to wait until next year.

  • @Greg: ow.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    oldschool trick used by a lot of guys. baby would never try to ‘injure’ shaq – there was no evidence he was hurt until he left the game. muchadoaboutnuttin.

    all shaq needs to do to get even is to doubledate with baby, give him some ribbing in front of his lady, watch baby try and go MMA, and proceed to bust his hand on shaqs oversized melon.

  • Adrian

    remember when Shaq said “you know why they call him Big Baby? because hes my son” aww i guess it did him justice … but anyway we better dominate the Pistons today after that loss to NJN this game should be a blowout

  • GranTur

    Baby is dumb. He was supposed to bring him ice and make it feel better…

    The Cavaliers are worse with Shaq.

    Z was more than enough for them at center.

  • neyvit

    Not a big deal. Yes, its a “dirty” play but things like this happen all the time. Its pretty silly though for Big Baby to try to claim that the video was doctored (did he think everyone would just take him for his word?).

    As for the Cavs being better without Shaq – absolutely false. It may seem that way because they will beat the mediocre/bad times more handily – thats a simple result of there being more possessions in the game without Shaq so the talent discrepancy will be magnified.

    Against teams like Lakers/Magic, where there is little talent discrepancy, Shaq plays a huge part.

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  • rondoislove

    Can someone refresh my memory?

    Between the time Baby swiped the ball from Shaq and then tugged his thumb, did Shaq show any signs of that particular thumb hurting (ex: Paul Pierce holding his thumb right after hurting it against LA)? I mean, if that weren’t the case, how was Baby supposed to know it was that particular thumb that was hurting?

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  • David

    You guys are hilarious! Just own up to it. Big Baby knew his thumb was at least a little bit hurt and then definitely grabbed and tugged at it. Clear as day. Bush League play.

  • Kevin

    Kudos to this blog for doing the video analysis and for doing it well.

    For those asking, yes, there was a visual display of the thumb injury after the Davis block, before the thumb pull. Shaq was shaking and flexing the thumb right after the block, and right in front of Davis. The block is what injured the thumb and nobody can tell if the thumb grab made it worse. But it was a dirty play which Davis lied about. His history removes the benefit of the doubt other players might get.

    As for Shaq not responding? Who knows. He definitely pulled his thumb away and tried to shift his position away from Davis. Perhaps he was too pre-occupied with the injury to consider retaliation. Maybe, because of their history together, Shaq doesn’t want to bust Davis up in the media. Maybe he’s just keeping it to himself, filed away for another day when he can whack Davis back. Only Shaq knows, but his lack of public response doesn’t mean that Davis didn’t go after the thumb.

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