On Tuesday night, Dwight Howard, apparently frustrated, turned around from his basket and swung his elbow right in Sam Dalembert's face. The contact was not incidental. It was intentional. Howard was angry about something -- who knows what; Howard typically isn't the kind of player to get all huffy -- and he threw an elbow to make that clear.
The referees saw the play. They gave Howard a technical. The problem is that the play warranted, according to the NBA rulebook, an immediate ejection. That's the way you're supposed to handle elbows to the head. Otherwise, if players know they can get away with one elbow-shot per game, why not, right? There's no punishment there.
Instead, Howard stayed in the game and the Magic won. So the league reviewed the play again today and decided whether Howard will be suspended for Game 6 on Thursday. You can watch the video here. Um, yeah. That's a suspension. Rightfully so, that's what the league ruled.
Under really any circumstances that should be a suspension. What makes Howard, at least to us -- and we're not David Stern, so take this with however many grains of salt as you please -- even more culpable is that the refs saw it and allowed him to remain in the game and that the Magic went on to win. The Magic are a different team without Dwight Howard. He is their heart and soul. Without him, there are no guarantees about last night's win. So it only seems karmically, if not legally, fitting that Dwight sit one game out to atone for the benefit of his sins. And that's what's going to happen.
If the 76ers win, fine. All's fair. If they lose, they had their shot. But it doesn't make much sense to let Howard, rising young star though he may be, get away with the NBA equivalent of murder.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.