During the opening round of the playoffs this past April, the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls took part in a heated opening playoff contest. On Monday evening, the two teams let each other know that their hatred for one another has not died down but increased. Unfortunately for the Washington Wizards though, their squad was given four suspensions as a result of a skirmish between newly acquired forward and veteran, Paul Pierce and the Chicago Bulls’ emotional leader, Joakim Noah.
The incident on Monday took place when Pierce committed a hard foul on Bulls’ forward Jimmy Butler. While the refs were discussing whether Pierce should be given a flagrant or not, the one-time NBA champion, Pierce, continued to talk trash to his opponent before the situation elevated. Butler noticeably went from chatting with Pierce, to taking exception, which brought in Noah, who tried to chase Pierce away before coach Tom Thibodeau split the two players apart. Just as the situation looked to be getting diffused, Pierce came back by attempting to poke Noah in the eye, which resulted in resistance from both sides.
As a result of the melee between Noah and Pierce, both players were fined $15,000. The real blow from incident is what Washington got slapped with as the players reacted to the eye poke, when several players from the bench left their seat. Unfortunately for Washington, instead of helping the situation, starting power forward Nene Hilario and reserves DeJuan Blair, Daniel Orton and Xavier Silas have all been hit with a suspension. Worse yet for the team is that the players will not be suspended for the next preseason game but for the regular season opener against the Miami Heat.
The current incident is just the latest in bad blood between Chicago and Washington. During their first round series this past April, Nene got hit with a one-game suspension after he headbutted and grabbed Jimmy Butler’s neck in MMA-style fashion. The suspension would only catapult the series’ five highly competitive contests.
If their rivalry was not already at a heated level, the Wizards adding Pierce will only up the ante of their dislike for one another. In the 2009 playoffs, Pierce, who was a member of the Boston Celtics took part in one of the most exciting playoff series of all-time with the Bulls. The series not only went seven games, but it consisted of seven overtime periods. While Pierce has moved on to the Washington Wizards, the Bulls still have a few players from their memorable battle with Pierce’s Celtics, including Noah and Derrick Rose. As such, Pierce also has a history with the Bulls. He also knows exactly how to push Chicago’s buttons, particularly the emotional Noah.
Noah is Chicago’s emotional leader, which has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, he plays with fire and passion that has made him one of the more unique personalities in the NBA, not to mention being awarded last season’s Defensive Player of the Year. On the minus side, Noah has a history of being a reactor to any situation on the court. During the confrontation on Monday, Pierce knew exactly what he was doing. He knew it would set the big man off. Unfortunately for the newest member of the Wizards, it backfired by getting four of his teammates suspended.
Nene, Blair, Orton and Silas all were suspended for one reason — they left the bench due to an emotional reaction. NBA rules have been very consistent over the years ever since the brawl in Detroit. After that melee occurred in the stands and on the court, the NBA implemented a rule that barred any player on the bench to step foot on the court, regardless of the reason, in order to prevent a dangerous situation. On Monday, four Wizards violated the rule.
Instead of simply suspending the four players for a throwaway preseason game, the NBA sent a message to the Washington Wizards and everyone else in the NBA by being given four suspensions, due to a skirmish Monday against their rival, the Chicago Bulls. As a result, the move will hurt Washington significantly in their debut of the season. In their upcoming contest against the Miami Heat, which will take place on Oct. 29, Washington will be without their top two power forwards in Nene and Blair, one of their backup centers in Orton and a reserve shooting guard, Silas. It will be a difficult game for Washington, who are set to start the season with high expectations, after surpassing them last season. It also will serve as a reminder to all teams and players to not cross the line when they are seated on the bench. With these suspensions and fines being handed out, it is without question that the rivalry between the Bulls and Wizards are at an all-time high.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey