Last night, Dwyane Wade slammed Rajon Rondo to the ground, on purpose. However, if you missed the game and wanted to read about the more salient moments, you may get a decidedly different impression on how Rondo came to dislocate his elbow:
Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: “The injury occurred in the third quarter when he became entangled with a visibly frustrated Wade.”
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: “Rondo and Wade had crashed to the floor together in a tough play that turned into a foul that turned into a fall that turned into a terrible injury. The ball was loose and Wade tried to hold Rondo back, knowing if the Celtics’ guard got the ball it was going to be two points. The Heat, facing a push they ended up not being ready for, couldn’t afford it. So Wade held Rondo back, wrapping his right arm around Rondo’s waist. But the crashing of strength got Wade off balance. The first thing to buckle was Wade’s left leg, sending him to the court. Then the arm pulled Rondo down, too, a loose-ball foul in progress. The officials saw it and called it. Others might call it differently.”
Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe: “This image of Theismann flashed through the mind when we saw Rajon Rondo’s left elbow bend in a most unnatural fashion as he was pulled to the deck by Dwyane Wade with 7:02 left in the third quarter of the raucous 97-81 Celtic Game 3 victory last night over the hated Heat.”
Gary Dzen, The Boston Globe: “Rondo went down in a heap at the 7:02 mark of the third quarter, pulled to the ground by Heat guard Dwyane Wade. It was a scary moment. The Celtics had been on a 14-6 run and the building was loud. When Rondo went down, you could hear a pin drop. “I knew right away something was wrong when I went down,” said Rondo. “But thank God for Kevin (Garnett) because I was having trouble breathing. I was worried about my elbow but I was having trouble breathing. I just kept hearing him tell me to breathe. Everything else took care of itself.” Wade was called for a foul on the play. Asked about it, he said, “It’s a physical game, the game of basketball is a physical game. I’m not a dirty player, it’s physical. Everyone falls to the ground, everyone gets hurt, people get up.” Rondo would not commit to whether or not he will play in Game 4, but it’s unlikely Rondo knows how he’ll feel at this time. Adrenaline can play a big part in coming back from an injury during a game. Rondo was clearly limited by his left arm, catching and throwing passes with his right arm and barely lifting the left arm during the fourth quarter. “If I’m on the court, you may see me hold my arm but I’m not going to use it as an excuse. If D-West is out there, it’s the same way. That’s how we play. That’s our mentality. We show up Monday night and we’re on the court and we’re playing. Don’t ask me how I feel. I’m going to play regardless. I’m not going to use it as an excuse. We’re a no excuse team.” West had 11 points and 3 assists in 25 minutes for the Celtics. That’s exactly what the Celtics want from West. It will be difficult for West to fill Rondo’s production should Rondo be unable to go Monday. Said LeBron James, “Let’s just hope that it’s not something that can affect him long term.”
Steve Bulpett, The Boston Herald: “At the end of the night, Rajon Rondo’s left arm was hanging from his shoulder as if it belonged to someone else, the result of a gruesome elbow dislocation when he was taken down by Dwyane Wade and tried to brace himself.”
Dan Duggan, The Boston Herald: “Rondo remained on the Garden floor after tangling with Dwyane Wade with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 97-81 Game 3 win over the Miami Heat last night.”
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Further fuel was provided when Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo left in the third quarter with a dislocated left elbow and then returned in the fourth, finishing with 11 assists.
Joseph Goodman, Miami Herald: “Rondo became tangled with Wade with 7:02 left in the third quarter and hyperextended his arm while falling to the ground.
David Dwork, Peninsula is Mightier: “The big play of the quarter came when Dwyane Wade’s arms got locked up with Rajon Rondo’s and both fell to the floor.”
Tom Bellinger, CelticsBlog: “Then, disaster seemed to strike. Rajon Rondo got tangled up (dragged down) with Dwyane Wade after poking the ball loose.”
“Tangled” may be the most popular description, but Windhorst’s depiction of the valiant Dwyane Wade, who’s “leg buckled” under the intense “crashing of strength” is the most hilarious. He punctuates this description with a small caveat at the end: Others might call it differently.
What Windhorst meant to write was that “others might call it correctly” and actually say what it was: a take-down. Anyone who has ever been met a playground bully face-to-face has been been tripped like Rondo was. This is similar to the two person bully take down, where one bully, unbeknownst to the victim, gets on his hands and knees behind the victim while the other pushes him/her over the crouched bully. Here’s the official diagram from the School Administrator’s Handbook, VI Edition:
But hey, don’t take my word for it, or any other writer’s word for it, watch the play for yourself:
If the play in real time wasn’t enough to convince you of what Wade intended, let’s break it down frame by frame:
Wade wraps his right arm around Rondo’s waist.
Wade grips Rondo’s waist with his right hand and swings his left leg behind Rondo.
Wade goes to the floor and begins to throw Rondo over Wade’s outstretched leg.
Rondo starts to go over.
Wade’s arm stays with Rondo the whole way down and Rondo’s career flashes before all of our eyes.
It’s unclear whether or not Wade is complaining to the officials or shouting at the Boston bench. Whatever he’s doing, it’s evident that he’s trying to play the victim. The most interesting part of this whole sequence is that no one cares about Wade. They all saw what happened to Rondo and they all want to make sure he’s okay, LeBron James included.
The look of “oh @!#*” on Wade’s face. A realization that he might have seriously injured Rondo as a result of his own petulance.
And here it is again, slowed down to 50%:
In the postgame presser, Wade was asked about the play and he responded, “It’s a physical game, the game of basketball is a physical game. I’m not a dirty player, it’s physical. Everyone falls to the ground, everyone gets hurt, people get up.” He is absolutely, 100% right. He is not a dirty player. He’s a petulant player. His childish frustration with getting his pocket picked led to the unnecessary dislocation of Rondo’s elbow.
Wade used to be one of my favorite players. He used to attack the rim with reckless abandon. If he didn’t get a call from the ref. He’d get up, and run back on defense. Then he started getting calls. He started being treated like the superstar he is. And now, every time he doesn’t get a call, it’s a travesty of the game of basketball. He has the same reactionary fuse as Kobe Bryant and Kendrick Perkins. Last night, he didn’t get the call so he took matters into his own hands. A decision that could have ended the season for Rondo.
My message to Wade: Continue to play physical. Continue to play hard. Continue to play well, even. But leave this crap in the locker room.
If you’re a fan looking for the NBA to take some kind of action, don’t get your hopes up. A penalty of any substance would be unprecedented. I can’t think of a situation in the past that mirrors this. If anything is going to happen, the most-likely penalty will be upgrading the foul to a flagrant-1. I’m not sure anything more than that and the public shaming of Wade is necessary or warranted. The injury to Rondo was regrettable, but the extent of which was hardly Wade’s intent. Just a near worse-case-scenario stemming from a bush league play.
It bothers me that people refuse to describe this the way it happened. To give Wade a free pass on this is reprehensible. Almost as much as it would be to completely condemn him. Surely he meant to take Rondo down. Surely he meant to trip him. But he didn’t mean for him to get hurt as much as he did. He didn’t mean to dislocate Rondo’s elbow.
Still, it bothers me that people would defend Wade at all on this one. I shouldn’t be surprised, but one commenter on the Heat’s SB Nation blog, Peninsula is Mightier, actually blamed Rondo for fouling Wade:
I understand that there are ultimate homers everywhere, for all teams. I just wish there was one situation, one clear-cut, obvious situation where every single person, no matter where their allegiance lies, will agree. No rational Celtics’ fan tries to sugar-coat how Kevin Garnett got to know Channing Frye’s crotch. It was bush league. And so was Wade’s action last night.
After reading all the recapitulations, I thought I had dreamt up the take down. Then I went to the tape. Prosecutors get convictions off of grainy, security camera footage. We have hi-def, and we still can’t unanimously agree on the events that transpired.
Rondo is the engine that stirs the drink and the Celtics are in no way better with him less than 100%, but maybe this play and last night’s game will catapult the Celtics into getting back into this series. We’ll find out on Monday.