2016-17 isn’t going so well for the Washington Wizards.
They’ve underachieved at 5-9 on the season, John Wall has had issues with the officials, and on Friday night, Bradley Beal was involved in an altercation with the Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier that resulted in the Wizards guard putting his hands on Fournier’s throat:
While Beal didn’t exactly threaten Fournier’s life there, he did squeeze with enough force to leave an impression:
Both players received technical fouls for the brouhaha, but Beal stayed in the game as the Wizards beat the Magic 94-91.
There are several clauses in the NBA rule book that would hypothetically govern the officials’ reactions to this play. If they believe that this is a fight, then both players should be ejected immediately, per Rule 12a, Section VI, clause (a), which states:
Technical fouls shall be assessed players, coaches or trainers for fighting. No free throws will be attempted. The participants will be ejected immediately.
That apparently wasn’t the refs’ interpretation of this kerfuffle, although it’s unclear why. Beal could also be assessed a flagrant 1 or flagrant 2 foul, even during a dead ball. With the latter, he would be ejected immediately.
However, short of either of those applications of the rules, there’s technically nothing that says the officials had to eject Beal for this. Instead, the refs are allowed to make a judgment call in the heat of the moment based on their feel for the game.
The situation would be different if Beal had thrown a punch or swung an elbow that made contact; in both instances, he would have been ejected. Because he went in with an open hand, however, the rules are different. Perhaps the powers that be should add "choking" to the list of 100 percent unacceptable behavior.
For now, we’ll have to wait to see if the NBA offices decide that Beal’s actions warrant harsher discipline.