By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Wizards forward Darius Songaila was suspended by the NBA for last night's game after the league determined that Songaila intentionally hit Cavaliers forward LeBron James in the face with his left hand during Game 5 on Wednesday.
The play happened in the first quarter. After James drove to the basket, his arm and Songaila's left arm became tangled and as they tried to break free from each other, Songaila's left hand caught James in the face. Songaila was assessed a technical foul after the play.
Songaila, who was not allowed to be in Verizon Center last night, was not available to comment on the suspension but said on Thursday that the contact was unintentional.
"We got tangled up, my arm got caught inside of his and when I tried to free myself, my arm caught him in the face," said Songaila, who averaged 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 15.4 minutes in the playoffs. "It was an accident. He lifted my arm and it caught him in the face. If anything, it was caused by him. It wasn't intentional or anything."
Stu Jackson, who handles disciplinary matters for the league, felt differently after reviewing tape of the play and conducting an investigation.
"It was clear that they did get tangled, but then upon being separated, some contact took place where Darius Songaila made contact with the head of LeBron James," Jackson said in a conference call. "After reviewing the play several times, it was determined that this was intentional contact."
The Wizards did not learn of the suspension until after a morning shoot-around yesterday, so Coach Eddie Jordan and his staff had prepared for Game 6 thinking that Songaila would be available. The suspension left the Wizards without a key bench player.
The NBA has often been accused of favoring its stars, but Jackson said the same decision would have been made had James contacted Songaila in a similar way.
"We evaluate each of these plays based on the merits and not the individuals," Jackson said. "If the roles were reversed, the answer is, yes, he would have been suspended."
James and Cleveland Coach Mike Brown have repeatedly stated that the Wizards have been out to hurt James during the series. Songaila has not been suspended previously by the league.
"It was something that wasn't basketball-related," said James, who was retroactively assessed a flagrant-1 foul for elbowing Andray Blatche in the face during Game 1. "They asked me if I thought it was intentional or if I had anything against Songaila. I don't know if it was intentional or not."
On Thursday, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said he did not believe that Songaila deserved a technical foul for the play, but yesterday he declined to comment on the suspension.
"It is what it is," Jordan said before the game. "We can't let that hang over our head."