Flagrant foul information regarding Trevor Ariza
In talking yesterday with NBA Vice President of Communications Tim Frank about how Trevor Ariza's situation with Rudy Fernandez (and others similar) might be evaluated, I learned of a common misconception among fans, players, coaches, and media (yours truly included). Whether someone makes a play on the ball isn't the determining factor in assessing a flagrant foul. Or even "a" determining factor, really. Instead, it's a matter of whether the contact itself was necessary and/or excessive.
In a case like Trevor's, that can obviously get very dicey. On one hand, the league rightfully wants to protect its players, and Fernandez is essentially a sitting (or flying) duck while airborne. You don't want to see him get hurt. On the other hand, where do you draw the line between contact acceptable vs. excessive? Ariza obviously made contact with Fernandez's head, but he also came reasonably close to getting a block. Another few inches one way or the other and he might have missed the ball, but also avoided Fernandez's head. Either way, if he was able to come that close, it's understandable to me why he didn't feel compelled to just concede the basket. Throw in the fact that Ariza really did appear more interested in Spalding hunting than hunting heads and it becomes an even tougher call.
Frank didn't deny how difficult the process often is- I personally don't think there is a tougher sport to officiate than basketball, for what it's worth- and shares my happiness that such sequences get reviewed at the time (and also with time having passed, allowing emotions to simmer down). It may not always lead to the "correct" call or one that makes fans happy, but it's an earnest attempt at justice.
At any rate, for those wondering how a flagrant can get called after a player seems to be going after the ball, there you have it.