The Atlanta Hawks are amid the best regular season in their franchise history, with realistic ambitions on an NBA championship for the first time. But they will have to accomplish this without Thabo Sefolosha, whose fibula was fractured during an encounter with New York Police outside a nightclub in the early-morning hours last weekend.
Sefolosha, the veteran swingman who has playoff experience, is a main cog on the Hawks’ surprisingly formidable lineup. Going without him makes their challenge significantly more difficult. How he was injured makes it all more painful.
Because it was so avoidable.
The night before a game, after 4 a.m., Sefolosha, 30, said NYPD caused his injury. The team used Twitter for the player to make his claims: “This has been a difficult time for me and I truly appreciate the support I have received from everyone. I’m extremely disappointed that I will not be able to join my teammates on the court during the playoffs and apologize to them or any distraction this incident has caused. . . On the advice of counsel, I hope you can appreciate that I cannot discuss the facts of the case. Those questions will be answered by my attorney in a court of law. I will simply said that I’m in great pain, have experienced a significant injury and that the injury was caused by the police.”
Those last words were the most intriguing. A video obtained by TMZ appears to show an NYPD officer wielding a banton “near” Sefolosha, but it is hard to determine if he was hit by it. The injuries could have been caused by the banton or during the scuffle.
He and a teammate were arrested shortly after another NBA player, Chris Copeland of the Indiana Pacers, was stabbed outside the New York nightclub. (The men were in town to play against the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, respectively.) Still no one has said what instigated the fight and what Sefolosha’s role was in the aftermath, although reports essentially indicated he came to the aid of a fellow NBA player.
This kind of drama puts the Hawks in a delicate position: to support their player while also preparing for the most important part of the season without distraction.
Sefolosha may be right in saying the cops’ force injured him. If so, that would be a shame, but not a surprise considering this sad climate of police targeting Black men across the country. But Sefolosha had a role in in, too.
A bigger role in this situation, in fact. By hanging out the night before a game, even though he’s a grown man who has presented himself as responsible, until after 4 a.m., Sefolosha put himself in a position for something to happen, because, as your parents used to say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”
It did not, and it will be a while before it is known how not having the outstanding defense, underwhelming but solid offense and invaluable leadership of Sefolosha will impact the Hawks. But he will be missed, especially because this did not have to happen.