Stephen A. Smith called the NBA to see if they’d suspend Russell Westbrook for ‘inexcusable’ play

When the Dallas Mavericks host the LA Clippers for Game 4 of their first-round series in the NBA playoffs on Sunday, Russell Westbrook is going to be in uniform for the Clips, but ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith isn’t so certain he should be.

A little background for any who missed it: Towards the end of Game 3, Westbrook appeared to lose his cool as his team was getting blown out, taking a hard foul on Mavs star Luka Doncic, swinging him around and then shoving him when Luka took exception to it.

Westbrook then shoved Doncic’s teammate P.J. Washington when he went to intervene by shoving Westbrook, elevating Washington to Mavericks folk hero status and internet meme with his completely nonplussed reaction to it:

Both Westbrook and Washington were ejected, but Smith went on ESPN on Sunday to say he wasn’t so sure that was enough. In a rant on Sunday’s broadcast of KnicksSixers, Smith admitted he called the league office to try and get an explanation for why they weren’t suspending Westbrook:

More from that clip (emphasis mine):

“Inexcusable behavior, that’s what I saw, and I don’t know why this isn’t being talked about enough, to be quite honest with you. I was of the mindset that Russell Westbrook deserved to be suspended for today’s game. That’s how appalling his game was… What he did the last game, I want you to go back and transpired in Game 3. Look at this foul right here. You knocked a guy clear upside the head. You sit up there and you come down on Luka Doncic in the back, that play right there you could have separated his shoulder. Then you push him in the chest, then you go after P.J. — even though P.J. shoved you in the back — and then you’re shrugging off the referee. I felt so serious about this fellas, I called the league office and I said ‘I need an explanation. Tell me why Russell Westbrook wasn’t suspended.’”

That last part is what led some Clippers fans and online Russ stan accounts to accuse Smith of trying to get Westbrook suspended, but that’s not exactly what happened, even if that read is understandable. What it sounds like is that Stephen A. went back to his journalistic, pre-takesman roots to simply get a comment from the league explaining why Westbrook wasn’t being suspended.

That answer from the league? Essentially that this is the playoffs, and it fell short of the suspension standard for them, even if it likely would have reached said bar in the regular season.

More from Smith (again, emphasis mine):

“I was told that the ‘officials gave their report, and every indication in writing that they provided said we handled this. He got a couple of technicals, plus a flagrant 1, plus he was ejected, plus no one was injured. So we took all those things into consideration and that’s why we didn’t suspend him.’ And I stood down, I said ‘that makes total sense, I’m glad.’ But they said ‘if it had been in the regular season, the likelihood is that they might have had a different decision.’ But! It’s the playoffs, and because of how important it is, you can’t just do that.”

The NBA admitting that they have a different standard for suspensions in the playoffs than the regular season is certainly not news to anyone who has watched the postseason before, but it still is sort of eye-popping that they apparently admitted that out loud.

However, the funniest part of this is just the visual of Smith being so appalled by Westbrook’s behavior that he called an NBA spokesperson and demanded an explanation for why he wouldn’t be suspended.

Is this something that happens frequently? How often is Stephen A. calling NBA media relations to ask for explanations on hard fouls? Did he check in on why Joel Embiid is allowed to play in Game 4 after some of his… let’s say controversial… conduct in Knicks-Sixers Game 3? Have they designated a helpline for Stephen A. to check on suspension statuses? Does he have a big red phone in his office with a direct line to Joe Dumars like the Gotham Mayor to Adam West’s Batman? The people need to know.

It remains to be seen if anything else will come of this, but once Westbrook finds out perhaps my colleagues over at Secret Base will have some material for a “Russell Westbrook vs. Stephen A. Smith” Beef History on their hands. But for now, “Being in a statistical category he only shares with Kendrick Perkins” will have to be enough of a punishment for the Clippers guard:

And really, isn’t that enough?

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