Stan Van Gundy says he’s getting tired of all the flopping by
Atlanta’s big men. The Hawks accuse Orlando star Dwight Howard of
being a little too loose with his elbows. And Jason Richardson sums
up his feelings about Zaza Pachulia this way: ”I don’t like
Yep, this Eastern Conference playoff series is getting downright
The NBA tried to tone things down a bit Saturday by handing
one-game suspensions to Richardson, one of Orlando’s top outside
shooters, and Pachulia, the Hawks’ burly backup center, after their
altercation in the closing minutes of Game 3.
The league’s disciplinarian, vice president Stu Jackson, was on
hand for the contest at Philips Arena and needed less than 24 hours
to announce his decision Saturday.
Pachulia will sit out Sunday night’s game for head-butting
Richardson. The Magic player was suspended for shoving Pachulia in
the face. Both also will forfeit one game’s pay.
With about 2 1/2 minutes to go Friday night, Pachulia took
exception when Howard swung his elbow after a hard foul, responding
with an elbow of his own. Richardson jumped in and was head-butted
several times by Pachulia as they jawed with each other. Richardson
responded with a slap to Pachulia’s face before Howard pulled away
Pachulia and Richardson were both ejected, and Howard received a
technical. The Hawks won 88-84 to take a 2-1 lead in the
The NBA didn’t punish Howard.
”I’m not trying to be dirty. But I never back down from
anybody,” Pachulia said. ”It’s just my character. When I feel
like I’m disrespected, I’m there. I’m not backing down. That’s what
happened. It might be a bad thing, but everybody has their own
personality. That’s my personality.”
Richardson said he has no regrets either, except for having to
sit out a potentially pivotal game. He plans to watch the game on
television at the team hotel.
”I’m not sorry for what I did,” he said. ”But I kind of feel
bad because I’m not there for my teammates.”
The best-of-seven series has taken on a nasty tone. The Hawks
accuse Howard of freely swinging elbows when he gets in the lane,
while Orlando’s coach said Atlanta’s big men tend to fall down
anytime someone gets near them.
Specifically, Van Gundy mocked 7-footer Jason Collins for going
down in Game 3 on a charge by Orlando’s 6-foot point guard, Jameer
”One thing that frustrates me is all the flopping,” the
outspoken coach said. ”It’s amazing to me how many times guys as
big Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia get knocked down. You’d think
they’d be able to stand up a little bit better.”
Collins hasn’t been too pleased with some of Howard’s tactics,
”When the whistle blows, it doesn’t end for him,” Collins
said. ”You’ve got to protect yourself at all times.”
At first glance, the suspensions would seem a bigger blow to
Orlando. The Magic certainly feel that way, losing their
second-leading scorer during the regular season (15.6 points a
game) and one of their main defenders on Atlanta star Joe
Pachulia is a backup, but the Hawks will clearly miss his
emotional style and defensive presence against Howard, who was held
to 21 points in Game 3 without a lot of double-teaming, allowing
Atlanta to play straight up against Orlando’s outside shooters.
”Certainly, he’s been an energizer for us,” Hawks coach Larry
Drew said. ”He brings another level of energy with his hustle,
with his aggressiveness, with his physicality. That’s what playoff
basketball is all about.”
The 6-11, 275-pound Pachulia readily conceded that he banged his
forehead into Richardson’s several times.
”Maybe the first one or two were a manner of talking. But the
third one was a big one,” the Hawks player said. ”That’s a tough
situation. Your nerves, tensions are high, people are screaming
your name and you just lose yourself.”
The Magic felt Pachulia deserved a stiffer penalty.
”It’s a little unfair,” forward Ryan Anderson said. ”You
can’t just sit there and take a blow like that, three times, from a
head-butt. You can’t just let that happen. It’s a natural instinct
to come back at somebody. It’s not like he punched him. It was just
a little push-away. I think it’s a little ridiculous. But what are
you going to do?”
Without Pachulia, the Hawks will likely go with a combination of
Collins and little-used Etan Thomas against Howard. Collins played
only 17 minutes Friday after taking a hard charge from Howard,
landing on his tailbone. He said it felt better a day later and
there’s no doubt he’ll be able to go Sunday. The 6-10 Thomas missed
Game 3 to attend his grandmother’s funeral and played only 13 games
during the regular season.
”We still have some big bodies,” Drew said. ”But the
million-dollar question is will those bodies be as effective as
Zaza has been? That remains to be seen.”
The Magic could turn to Gilbert Arenas to fill some of the
scoring void with Richardson out. But the one-time star known as
Agent Zero didn’t play at all in Game 3, and Van Gundy wouldn’t
commit to a larger role Sunday.
Someone will have to step up.
”Jason is a key factor on this team,” Anderson said. ”He’s
one of our main scorers, a go-to guy. It’s going to be tough
without him on the court.”
As Pachulia talked at his locker, Hall of Famer Dominique
Wilkins walked up and gave a quick display of shadow boxing.
Wilkins, who’s now a Hawks executive and broadcaster, threw
punches at a former NBA referee who confronted him after a game
last month in a dispute over a clothing bill.
Pachulia smiled and pointed at Wilkins.
”I’ve been learning from that guy,” the center quipped.