Songaila suspended for Wizards' Game 6 at Cavs
WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards reserve forward Darius Songaila was suspended by the NBA for Game 6 of his team's first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night for hitting LeBron James in the face.
"Did I think it was intentional? I'm not sure. But it happened," James said before the game.
"It's the postseason. It's physical. At the same time, you've got to draw a line," James added.
Songaila, averaging 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes during the series, and Wizards coach Eddie Jordan have said the contact was accidental as the player tried to pull his arm free after getting tangled with James in the first quarter of Game 5 on Wednesday.
"Songaila's contact was not made in the normal course of a basketball play, and he struck Lebron James in the face, and by rule receives an automatic suspension," NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson said in a conference call with reporters Friday.
"In viewing this many times," Jackson said, "we do feel that it was intentional contact."
Songaila was called for a technical foul, the latest example of what a rough-and-tumble series this has been. He wasn't at the arena for Friday's game; one of his No. 9 jerseys rested on a seat on the Wizards' sideline.
Even James acknowledged Songaila's foul didn't rank among the hardest of the first five games.
"No, no," James said. "Probably about 10th."
Said Washington's DeShawn Stevenson: "It just shows you he gets any call he wants."
In Game 1, James elbowed Washington forward Andray Blatche in the chin, a move later quietly upgraded to a flagrant foul -- but one Jackson said Friday did come in the "course of a basketball movement." Washington center Brendan Haywood was ejected from Game 2 for shoving James, and there also were flagrant fouls called on Stevenson and Anderson Varejao during the series.
But Jackson said that the Songaila-James play was viewed on its own -- and that the NBA has not warned the Wizards.
"There's no subliminal message here," Jackson said. "We evaluate each of these plays on its own merit."
Songaila participated in Washington's shootaround at its arena Friday morning, before the league announced the suspension. Jordan said he would have given more practice time to Andray Blatche had he known Songaila would be ruled out.
"We conducted an investigation that included interviewing both of the players involved and also taking input from the officials on the floor," Jackson said. "After that, we reviewed the video and then ultimately gathered all the information and made a decision."
Washington won 88-87 on Wednesday to cut Cleveland's lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
"It's Game 6, a must-win game, and you kick out one of our main bench players for an accident," Gilbert Arenas said. "I think that's wrong."
Stevenson, involved in an off-court feud with James and fined for a throat-slashing gesture during Game 4, was hit by a towel thrown from the stands while he stood near the sideline during Game 5. Jackson said the league is looking into that.
Stevenson had his doubts.
"If it ain't LeBron James," Stevenson said, "they ain't going to look at nothing."
On Thursday, neither Songaila nor Jordan had sounded worried there might be a suspension when they discussed the run-in with James.
"We got tangled up, my arm got caught inside of his, and when he tried to free himself, it was just an accident. He lifted my arm and it him right in the face. It was caused by him," Songaila said Thursday. "It wasn't my intention or anything like that. If anything, it was an accident."
Jordan watched video of the play and his opinion hadn't changed.
"I stand my ground. I thought he got tangled up with LeBron, and LeBron tried to get untangled. And in his method of trying to get untangled, Darius' arm just flew at his chin," Jordan said Thursday. "And LeBron's a terrific actor. We've seen some of his commercials."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press