The NBA announced Friday that Heat center Chris "Birdman" Andersen has been suspended for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers after he received a flagrant foul during an exchange with Tyler Hansbrough in Game 5.
With a little more than nine minutes remaining in the second quarter and the Pacers leading 29-25, Andersen appeared to intentionally veer into Hansbrough’s path in the backcourt as Indiana pushed the ball up the court. A hard bump from Andersen’s right shoulder sent Hansbrough flying to the ground. When Hansbrough returned to his feet, Andersen walked over to confront him and the two players bumped their chests together. At that point, Andersen shoved Hansbrough with both arms in the chest, sending him backwards, before referees, coaches and teammates could intervene.
It’s possible that Andersen’s initial bump was a mistaken reaction to a light shove in the back from Paul George, who nudged Andersen from behind during the rebounding sequence before corralling the ball and taking off the other way.
Andersen received a flagrant foul 1 after a video review of the play by the officials. Double technical fouls were also assessed to Andersen and Hansbrough. Both players were allowed to remain in the game.
The NBA league office retroactively upgraded Andersen's flagrant foul 1 to a flagrant foul 2 and assessed a one-game suspension without pay after it was determined that Andersen "knocked" Hansbrough to the court, "escalated the altercation by shoving" him, and "resisted efforts" to end the altercation.
The technical foul called on Hansbrough was also rescinded upon review by the league office.
ProBasketballTalk.com reported earlier Friday that NBA commissioner David Stern believed Andersen should have been asssessed a flagrant foul 2 and ejected from Game 5.
“I do think [Andersen] should have been ejected," Stern said, in an interview with NBCSportsRadio.com. "I looked at the replays and, it seems to me, there was no immediate push or shove of him, he just hauled off and knocked down Tyler Hansbrough. I don’t know what he was doing. And then he pushed him. And then he did not go gracefully to the bench.”
The Point Forward's Rob Mahoney asserted Friday morning that Andersen's actions warranted an ejection.
Andersen did not make himself available to the media after Game 5.
The Palm Beach Post reported that Hansbrough was unsure what prompted Andersen to start the altercation. CBSSports.com reported that Hansbrough also wasn’t sure whether Andersen should be suspended for Game 6.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s for you guys to decide. In my eyes, it wasn’t a basketball play.”
Virtually everyone associated with both teams pleaded ignorant about the exchange during their post-game comments.
“I don’t really want to say anything about any calls or any officiating,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I didn’t see anything. [The referees] watched it on the tape, so I’m sure they made the right decision.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not address Andersen’s potential availability for Game 6 and, like Vogel, stated that he wanted to review the altercation before speaking about it at length.
“I didn’t see it, so I’m going to have to see the film on it,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a physical series. But nobody wants to take it over the top.”
Andersen, 34, signed with the Heat in January and posted averages of 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game this season. He's averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game so far in the playoffs.
The Heat lead the Pacers 3-2 in the series. Game 6 is set for Indianapolis on Saturday.