DENVER — Dwight Howard sat by his locker stall with a stoic expression and a calm demeanor, an image that sharply contrasted to the one that earned him a flagrant foul type 2 and an automatic ejection in the Lakers’ 126-114 loss Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets.
Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried had frustrated the Lakers all game with his hustle, offensive putbacks and ability to slice and dice the Lakers’ non-existent defense. But this time was different. As Faried drove into the lane, Howard threw his hands up, struck his face and caused Faried to fall to the ground with a thud. The referees instantly gave Howard a flagrant foul type 2. After seeing the replay, they immediately ejected Howard as the Lakers trailed 79-72 with 5:02 left in the third quarter. And plenty of the 19,155 fans at Pepsi Center poured out boos at Howard.
Howard looked expressionless as he left the court. He then sounded defiant afterwards.
“It was just a foul,” Howard said. “I’ve been fouled harder than that before and nobody ever has gotten kicked out of the game for it. But I get penalized for fouling people hard. It’s basketball.”
The NBA may think otherwise.
Flagrant foul type 2’s don’t elicit automatic suspensions or fines. According to the NBA rulebook, though, the league issues such punishment depending on a number of variables. The NBA measures the severity of the contact, whether it’s considered a “basketball play”, whether the player committed the foul with his arm or hand, the potential for injury, the severity of any injury the offended player suffered and whether it led to an altercation.
Unsurprisingly, the Nuggets and the Lakers provided varying interpretations of these variables.
“I shouldn’t get penalized for fouling somebody hard,” Howard said. “My intentions weren’t to hurt anybody. It was just a hard foul. I’ve been fouled harder and nothing has happened. They can’t put me on a different scale because I’m a strong guy. A foul is a foul.”
Faried for one doesn’t buy it.
“He was just mad,” Faried said of Howard. “I was getting in his head and he couldn’t get the rebound. He wanted to, but I kept calling every rebound. It’s not like I said anything, or talked to him. I just play.”
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni remained the lone exceptions in admitting they saw the play. Bryant described the ejection as the “right call,” while D’Antoni deferred to the officials. But the Lakers strongly argued Howard doesn’t deserve a suspension.
“I don’t think he threw a punch or anything,” D’Antoni said. “That’ll be up to the league. I think he just pushed him backwards.”
Denver coach George Karl believes more happened.
“I thought [Howard] went intentionally to endanger [Faried],” Karl said. “It looked like [Faried] was pretty stunned after that and I thought it was a good call from where I was. I haven’t looked at the video yet.”
The NBA soon will.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org