Playing above the rim is as risky as it is routine in the NBA. The fastbreak dunk that left Andrew Bogut with a dislocated elbow, a sprained wrist and a broken right hand is a sequence that’s played out almost every night in the league. The difference between the crash landing that ended Bogut’s season and avoiding potential disaster is slim.
Seeing Bogut slip from the rim made a few players consider instances where grabbing the rim saved them from a hard fall, but it also reminded them of instances where hanging on too long earned them a technical foul. The line between the two is subjective, adding to potential danger.
“There’ve been instances where somebody’s right under you and you don’t want a tech and you just fall on them,” Glen Davis said. “You should be your own judge if you feel like you’re in danger or not. If you’re not trying to get a tech and you let go of the rim, you never know how you’re going to fall. They really do need to change that rule.”
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Bogut found himself in a similar situation earlier in the season against Portland, swinging from the rim as he finished off an alley-oop from Brandon Jennings with a pair of Blazer chasing him down. Saturday night against the Suns, with Amare’ Stoudemire chasing him, Bogut appeared to lose his grip on the rim, spilling to the floor arm-first.
“It was definitely a freak accident,” LeBron James said. “If he would have hung on the rim he wouldn’t be injured. His momentum carried him off the rim. If he could have just held on long enough to just kind of get his feet back under him, he wouldn’t have been injured. It’s just a freak accident.”
Ray Allen said it’s easy to tell when someone’s being excessive. In the fourth quarter of a loss to Utah late last month, Carlos Boozer swatted one of his 3-point attempts, then rushed the other way for a jam, ripping at the rim and kicking his legs out as he threw it down.
Allen screamed, “That’s a tech!” though one wasn’t called.
There are times when the opposite happens, and players are whistled for technicals when they appeared to be protecting themselves. In 2004, Darius Songaila was whistled for a technical foul for doing a pull-up on the rim even though there was a pair of defenders beneath him.
“You can tell when somebody’s ‘monkey dunking,'” Allen said. “Just kind of hang on the rim and having fun because he’s up there. But it truly is a saving grace for a lot of guys when you go up there like that.”
Some players protect themselves. James and other leapers like Josh Smith have a tendency to avoid touching the rim at all, almost placing the ball through the rim.
“If he could do it all over again I guess he would have just flushed the basketball through the rim and not hung on the rim at all, not touched the rim at all,” James said of Bogut. “You hate for that to happen especially to a caliber player like himself. The team’s been doing really well since all-star break. You wish that you could stay away from injury, especially as a team going into the playoffs.”
Having given the play some thought, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said it would be wise not to snap to judgement.
“I don’t think that was a dirty play,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if had he pushed him or he still would have fallen. It was more he held on the rim and his hand slipped off the rim, which that’s happened several times this year. I think Rondo had one of those this year with nobody around. So it was just a freak accident. We can’t overreact too it. It was horrific, it was awful to watch, But it happens.”