Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah isn't facing Kevin Garnett in the first round of the NBA playoffs. But as the NBA reviews Garnett's elbow of Quentin Richardson during a fracas near the Miami Heat bench in Game 1, Noah is offering his own viewpoint.
On Sunday, Noah called Garnett "a dirty player" who is constantly throwing elbows. He also said he's hurting because of an elbow he took recently from the Celtics' star.
"He's a dirty player," Noah said after the Bulls practiced at Quicken Loans Arena in preparation for Monday's Game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "He's always swinging elbows, man. I'm hurting right now because of an elbow he threw. It's unbelievable. He's a dirty player. It's one thing to be competitive and compete and all that.
"But don't be a dirty player, man. He's a dirty player."
When those comments got back to Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers could only laugh.
"Noah? Noah's in this series now?" Rivers jokingly asked. "I have no comment. If Noah had said that last year [when the Bulls and Celtics met in the postseason], I would have had a comment, but since he's in Cleveland and dealing with that, I think I'll let him focus on [Shaquille O'Neal] and that group right now."
Noah's opinions aside, NBA disciplinary officials were considering whether to discipline Garnett in the aftermath of the skirmish that led to Garnett's ejection during Boston's 85-76 victory.
"We are reviewing the altercation," league spokesman Tim Frank told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan on Sunday, giving no timetable for a ruling that could potentially alter the landscape for Game 2 of the first-round series Tuesday night.
Garnett was assessed two technical fouls and ejected after referees, using video replay to review the skirmish, determined that Garnett's elbow struck Richardson.
The altercation began when Boston's Paul Pierce went down on the sideline clutching his shoulder. Garnett walked over to check on his teammate and Richardson entered the fray and began verbally taunting Garnett.
"He started to talk to me, so I talked back," Richardson said. "I don't have any business talking to [Pierce], he was on the ground crying. I don't know what was going on, two actresses over there, that's what they are."
"I don't like them, and they know it," Richardson added. "Sometimes he [Pierce] falls like he's about to be out for the season, and then he gets right up. That's all I said."
As the altercation escalated and several players entered the fray, Jamaal Magloire was holding Garnett's right shoulder and arm when Garnett swung his left elbow and appeared to make contact with Richardson, who was standing behind him, striking him in the jaw or neck.
"You make your bed, you have to lay in it," said Garnett, adding that he viewed Richardson's conduct as disrespectful. "It just is what it is. If I see any of my teammates down, I want to make sure that they are all right. So if I have to deal with it, then that's what it is."
NBA officials have the option of reclassifying Garnett's elbow as a flagrant-2 foul. But that would not necessarily lead to a suspension in part because Garnett, who was not an instigator, was ejected from the game.
A decision on discipline for Magloire would seem to be more cut-and-dried regarding what appeared to be his clear violation of the NBA's "leaving the bench" rule, making it more likely he will be suspended for Game 2.
It was unclear whether any Boston players left their bench area, although backup guard Nate Robinson appeared ready to join the fracas before Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, sitting near the end of the Celtics bench, leapt up and restrained him.
The NBA has cracked down on elbowing violations in recent years, and Orlando's Dwight Howard was suspended during a first-round series last year for elbowing Philadelphia's Samuel Dalembert. But that incident did not happen in a dead ball situation, as this one did. The league office has wide discretion in determining the proper penalty for an elbowing violation.
Garnett's fate could be mitigated by the fact that he was not an instigator or an escalator in the skirmish and he was being restrained by Magloire when he swung his left elbow and connected with Richardson, who has an acrimonious history with Pierce.
The NBA's rulebook spells out the factors it will consider in meting out discipline this way:
"Whether on the floor or during postgame reviews, the officials and the league office consider the following criteria when evaluating these types of [elbowing] fouls: Severity of contact; legitimate basketball play; legal positioning; intent or reckless swing; thrown elbow; result of contact. None of these criteria necessarily carries more weight than another; they are considered in varying degrees as part of overall context of the particular play."
Information from ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan, ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.