During last night's drubbing of the LA Lakers (yes, I take great satisfaction in writing that) the Trailblazers Rudy Fernandez got laid out by Trevor Ariza.
Ben from Blazers Edge was on the scene and described it this way as he watched the medical staff attend to Rudy for 10 minutes as he lay virtually motionless on the floor:
My clearest view during the entire episode was of the Blazers' doctor rushing his way across the court, as if in slow motion and on a treadmill. As he bent down into the courtside pile, we waited, and waited, and waited. Horror turned to nausea, a sickening feeling -- not directed at Ariza, his foul, or his posturing -- but at the medical unknown. As the doctors handled things properly, slowing the scene down to a crawl to be sure Rudy was stable, every sensory input made the moment more agonizing: a glance at the scoreboard triggered a thought back to the unrestrained joy that had now evaporated from the building; the crowd's many attempts at rallying behind a "Ru-dy! Ru-dy!" chant, began dying off in time as the fear set in; even the replays, which brought a sense of relief because they seemed to show no horrific in-air contact and a very hard landing that was not likely to have caused spinal damage, were difficult to watch in the presence of 20,000 people who had no control over the health of one beloved man.
I would never wish tonight's situation upon any basketball player nor upon any basketball fans. It was the scariest moment -- not the hardest foul, but the most confusing, shocking, frightening aftermath -- that I've ever witnessed at a basketball game at any level.
The great news is that Rudy, despite being wheeled off the floor on the stretcher with his neck braced, spent the night at the hospital and doesn't have any serious injuries.
The word from the team is that Rudy was not seriously injured. Nate McMillan said after the game that the neck brace had been used as a precaution and credit the Blazers organization with making detailed health updates available almost immediately after the game was completed. Nevertheless, Rudy will be spending the night at the hospital for observation and has suffered a soft issue injury, which has him questionable for Wednesday's game.
Now that we know Rudy will be alright, let's look at the foul from Ariza...
Here's the video (you've probably seen it a few thousand times already) but if not...
So, sports fans the question of the day:
Was it a dirty play?
I say no. I even have a hard time calling it a "hard foul". The play actually develops pretty quickly. Rudy has time for one dribble and Ariza (who matches Rudy in athleticism) is right on his ass.
Rudy puts the ball straight up with two hands basically showing it to Trevor who's eyes you can see are looking straight at the ball. It was unfortunate that Ariza's arm hit Rudy in the head and even more so that he fell the way he did.
In fact, I don't see how Ariza doesn't go for the block in that situation. He's got the leaping ability to get there and has before as he did in this block from behind in a different game against the Blazers.
Rudy went up strong and looked like he was trying to go to his left hand to avoid the block. He elevated and was moving fast and was vulnerable when Ariza knocked him off-balance.
Was it a reckless play if it wasn't dirty?
Maybe. But we expect these athletes to play hard and with a measure of recklessness. We celebrate guys like Crash Wallace and Rodney Stuckey for that kind of game.
If Ariza lets Rudy go without contesting the shot he's called out for playing soft and giving up on a game where his team is behind big in the 3rd quarter.
More than anything this was just unfortunate.
I am very glad Rudy is ok, and I certainly understand and appreciate the reaction from his team mates to come to his defense. This is a man's game played above the rim and with passion and emotion. That's why we love it.
Anytime you've got guys flying around the court something like this could happen. It's a wonder it doesn't happen more.
Yesterday at Suns practice, Jared Dudley bit on a pump fake and went up for the block. He came down flipping over (Amundson?) and landed hard on his back and head just like when a safety up-ends a wide receiver in the air. I heard from across the gym when his head hit the floor.
Jared bounced up and was fine (or at least pretended to be) and kept playing. If he rotated just a bit more while falling out of control he could have seriously hurt his neck similar to the play that injured Dee Brown in the playoffs a few years ago.
These things are scary and unfortunate and they are part of the game. As much as I hate the Lakers, I don't find any fault in what Ariza did on this play.
What do you think?