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Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Alex Caruso, Gary Payton II...

These are all NBA players over the years that have been injured and missed an extended period of time as a result of reckless and “dirty” fouls committed on them while they were airborne. There are so many other names and instances that could be added to this list as well.

While these guys miss months, sometimes years, and may never be the same player again due to a life-changing injury, those that commit these hard and unnecessary fouls are given nothing more than a "slap on the wrist."

Sometimes the NBA steps in and hands out both a fine and a one-game suspension for the act, but what does this actually accomplish?

One player suffers a broken wrist or a torn ACL or something else and misses 100-plus days, but the person who is responsible for this injury only has to sit out one game. Does this make sense?

Injuries are a part of any sport and there is just no way to prevent them, but cases like those regarding Alex Caruso and Gary Payton II this NBA season could have easily been avoided.

Taking a look back on Caruso’s injury, the Chicago Bulls’ guard suffered a broken wrist on January 21 and missed almost two months of action due to a completely unnecessary and violent foul by Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Grayson Allen.

Caruso, a completely defenseless player that had already gone up for a layup, was fouled extremely hard on a play where the defender in Allen was not even going to make a play on the ball. Grayson Allen received just a one game suspension for this play.

Fast-forward a few months and you will find yourself on May 3, Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Just about three minutes into this game, Draymond Green led a fast break opportunity for the Warriors and he threw a beautiful pass to Gary Payton II, who had a clear layup.

Payton rose up to lay the ball in off the backboard when Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks came out of nowhere, made direct contact with Payton’s head and shifted his balance midair, causing the Warriors’ guard to fall hard onto the ground.

After not making any play on the ball whatsoever, Brooks was ejected from the game after receiving a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 and after the game, Gary Payton II was diagnosed with a fractured left elbow.

There are a ton of other players that you could look back on through the years and say the same thing in regards to there being unnecessary and violent contact being made resulting in an injury, as Kawhi Leonard getting hurt due to landing on Zaza Pachulia’s foot in the 2017 playoffs and Klay Thompson suffering a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals due to Danny Green fouling him midair are both two other examples.

Following Tuesday’s injury to Gary Payton II, it has become very clear that the NBA must try and put a stop to these kinds of fouls and injuries because they are beginning to get out of hand.

Torn ACLs, broken wrists, broken arms, torn muscles… How many players need to get hurt before a change is made?

Player safety has always been at the very top of the NBA’s priorities list and while Dillon Brooks may still be suspended for his actions in Tuesday night’s game against the Warriors, it will not be for more than one game, similar to what Grayson Allen got earlier in the year for his actions that caused Alex Caruso to get hurt.

Injuries are part of the game of basketball, but these are avoidable.

If the NBA truly wanted to end these types of plays once and for all, they would change their approach to hard fouls and simply say that a player who goes out of his way to commit a "hard and unnecessary" foul that results in another player getting hurt shall be suspended for the same amount of time it takes for the injured player to recover.

For example, in regards to the Allen-Caruso situation, Alex Caruso missed a total of 22 games, meaning that Grayson Allen would also be suspended a total of 22 games.

There is obviously a lot of backlash that would come with such stipulations, but there needs to be some kind of “middle-ground” and/or "check-and-balance" here in these types of situations because if all you are going to receive is a one-game suspension for a “hard foul” on someone, what is stopping a team from telling one of their bench players to commit such an act on one of the league’s best superstars, essentially taking a team out of contention at any point in the year?

This of course has not happened in the NBA, as far as we know, but there is nothing stopping a team from doing something similar to what the New Orleans Saints did several years ago in the NFL.

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, better known as “Bountygate” was a major incident in the NFL that resulted in members of the team being paid off for deliberately injuring opposing team’s players, essentially giving the Saints an advantage.

The NFL responded to this investigation with very harsh penalties, including indefinite suspensions, smaller suspensions and massive fines.

Now, the NBA does not need to go as extreme as this in regards to player safety and preventing in-air fouls, but these acts of intentional fouls while a player is in the air need to be stopped because this is not just basketball anymore, this is someone’s life.

All it takes is for a player to fall just the right way and they could suffer completely life-altering injuries or effects. Completely avoidable, all it takes is for the league to simply say they will not condone these types of actions anymore by pushing some sort of suspension based on injury type of rule.

Not every injury caused by a foul should fall under this stipulation, but fouls committed on an airborne, defenseless player that are deemed to be “flagrant and excessive” should automatically be sent to the league office and reviewed under a new format where the player who committed the foul is responsible for the safety of the player that got hurt.

Handing out a one-game suspension to a player that caused someone else to miss a half-a-season or longer is not justified in any way.

Something needs to change and Gary Payton II’s injury on Tuesday night could be the catalyst to spark a massive change to fouls in the NBA.

  • Disappointing Injury Update About Warriors' Gary Payton II: According to ESPN's Kendra Andrews, Gary Payton II sustained a fractured left elbow in Game 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies and will undergo an MRI on Wednesday. CLICK HERE.
  • JJ Redick On Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks: “He Broke The Code”: Golden State Warriors’ guard Gary Payton II suffered a fractured left elbow after a hard foul by Memphis Grizzlies’ wing Dillon Brooks in Tuesday night’s game. Here is what ESPN’s JJ Redick said about the situation. CLICK HERE.