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NBA sends message by benching Songaila

By admin Published: May 2, 2008

Of all the hits in this series, it is surprising that the one Darius Songaila gave to LeBron James in Game 5 was the one that earned a suspension. Eddie Jordan maintained that not only was the hit accidental, but that LeBron embellished the contact. As Jordan said yesterday: "I thought he got tangled up with LeBron and LeBron tried to get untangled and in his method of getting untangled, Darius's arm flew up and at his chest. And LeBron's a terrific actor. We've all seen his commercials."
But here is the thing, it was obvious that Songaila hit James in the face and it happened after a play, there was no ball to go after. Secondly, and this is most important, it seems pretty clear that the NBA warned the Wizards, and maybe the Cavs, that it wanted no more funny business after Game 4. A couple people told me the NBA thought long and hard about whether to suspend DeShawn Stevenson after his flagrant foul because of all the hard hitting in the series. Songaila's hit was apparently the final straw, even if it wasn't as severe as the others.
The Wizards have fairly stated their point that fouling hard is part of the playoffs. The Cavs have fairly argued that LeBron has to be protected. At the end of the day, he's a superstar and he keeps getting hit in the head and the NBA wanted to put a stop to it.
From what I hear, the Wizards didn't hear until after shootaround and they were upset they didn't find out until a day and a half after the incident so they couldn't prepare.
The Cavs surely would've preferred Brendan Haywood or Stevenson to get suspended but Songaila's suspension hits the Wizards' depth and their rebounding ability. They are already thin on the front line and Songalia was playing a lot of backup center. So I suspect Andray Blatche will get a lot more playing time tonight. There is a chance Jordan may have to play rookie Dominic McGuire, who hasn't played a meaningful minute in the series, a little. Both Blatche and Haywood are foul prone, so expect the Cavs to force the issue with Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Blatche has not handled Z well.
Also, at shootaround, it seemed like there was an excellent chance Sasha Pavlovic would get minutes tonight. I expect a tighter leash on Wally Szczerbiak.

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