Was Maker’s attack justified?

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 9, 2021 - 12:00am

Former NBA player and now outspoken TV commentator Jalen Rose was upset by 7-foot Thon Makers participation in the infamous Philippines-Australia free-for-all in a FIBA World Cup qualifying game at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan in July 2018. The South Sudan native, who moved to Australia when he was five, jumped on Andray Blatche during the fray then Terrence Romeo came from behind to throw a forearm on his back. Maker turned to Romeo and went after the 5-10 guard who is more than a foot shorter. He lashed out with a flying kick that Romeo sidestepped. Before Maker could do more damage, he was led back to his bench.

In the book “Hoop Dreams Down Under,” author Matt Logue said “the big mans actions were criticized byRose who called on NBA commissioner Adam Silver to punish Maker for his involvement in the brawl.” Logue quoted Rose as saying, “For Thon Maker, it is going to put Adam in a unique spot because it didnt happen in the NBA or the USbut he has got to be disciplinedI think that is something that the commissioners office is going to rule on swift, fast and in a hurry.”

It was FIBA, not the NBA, that sanctioned Maker who was slapped a three-game suspension. Romeo received the same penalty. In all, 10 Philippine and three Australian players were suspended. Logue said Maker was penalized “after producing a Bruce Lee-style fly kick to defend his Australian teammates.” NBA veteran and Australian national team assistant coach Luc Longley disagreed with Rose. “Longley came out swinging, saying the NBA should be proud of the South Sudanese stars team-first mentality,” wrote Logue.

This is what Longley said, quoted by Logue: “I think what Thon demonstrated was an absolute willingness to back up his teammates when the shit hits the fan. Hell be forever endeared to his teammates for his preparedness to have a go. He put his body on the line and I believe he did the right thing. If I was putting together an NBA club and I was looking for guys that competed, played hard and cared about their teammates, which is clearly an important asset in the NBA, I would say that Thons actions reflected well on who he is.” Despite Longleys tribute, Maker issued this qualified apology for his behavior: “Being from a war-torn country, basketball for me has always been a means to bring people togetherI feel a great responsibilityto carry myself in a way that promotes peace and unityI take responsibility for my actions, knowing that they were the result of my desire to protect my teammates and myself.”

For the record, Maker has played for Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland in five NBA seasons, averaging 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.8 minutes over 263 games. Last January, he was cut by the Cavaliers after eight games. Maker, 24, was the Bucksfirst-round draft pick and 10th overall in 2016, chosen ahead of Domantas Sabonis, Pascal Siakam and Dejounte Murray. He never averaged more than 5.5 points in a season but has earned over $11.6 million in the NBA. Now that hes out of the NBA, Maker could go down in history as one of the biggest and youngest first-round draft busts ever in the league.

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