Tensions Run High as NBA Altercations Escalate

Multiple physical incidents prompt ejections and suspensions league-wide

Written By Mason Kern

What a wild week it has been in the NBA, quite literally. Tensions clearly ran high across the entire league this week as fans bore witness to unsavory NBA behavior similar to past unbecoming incidents like the infamous “Malice in the Palace” melee.

Photography courtesy of Jacob Gonzales

Photography courtesy of Jacob Gonzales

To kick off this week’s fury-fueled iteration of the NBA, the faceoff between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76’ers saw Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry and 76’ers forward Ben Simmons engage in a heated verbal exchange—only to be promptly ejected. Simmons then motioned with his arm, seemingly pointing to the tunnel—a gesture that many speculated was a suggestion for Lowry to meet him back there for continued confrontation. Despite the invitation, nothing occurred after the ejections and Philly took the game 117-111.

“I won’t play around,” Simmons said of the altercation. “I’m not going to take no s— from anybody,” as reported via ESPN on Instagram.

Just a day later, superstar point guard Chris Paul was reunited with his former team in a match between his Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers in the so-called “City of Angels.” Things started fine—pleasantly even, as Paul was actually received with a standing ovation. However, things eventually turned sour as Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin benefitted from a no-call after an apparent goaltend. As he came back up the court he nudged Rockets’ head coach Mike D’Antoni with an elbow, sending the coach into a rage. Words were fired, and the rest of the game unfolded with a palpable air of discontent. Subsequently, Rockets’ forward Trevor Ariza ultimately ripped Griffin’s tights and multiple hard fouls occurred thereafter. When the dust settled, the Clippers claimed the victory 113-102.

When asked what he had said to Griffin, D’Antoni responded “you mean after he hit me? Just that I didn’t appreciate him. But other than that, it’s good,” as reported by the New York Times.

The real predicament plainly happened after the game in a scenario reminiscent of the “Trojan Horse” scheme implemented by the Greeks during the Trojan War. The Rockets used a back door in an attempt to confront the Clippers in their own locker room while Rockets’ center Clint Capela knocked on the front door as a diversion. Reportedly, Paul and Rockets’ shooting guard James Harden were trying to calm down their teammates—mainly Ariza and shooting guard Gerald Green, in an attempt to deflate the situation, but to no avail., Both Ariza and Green have been suspended two games due to the incident.  Somewhat surprisingly, punishments were not doled out to anyone else involved.

In the Minnesota Timberwolves contest against the Orlando Magic, things also got heated as multiple plays between Timberwolves’ forward Nemanja Bjelica and Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo escalated to an all-out skirmish. At first, Afflalo was visibly upset after being slightly shoved by Bjelica as he attempted to crash the rim for an offensive rebound. He responded with a haymaker of a right arm swing that narrowly missed Bjelica’s face. In order to “protect himself,” as has been reported, Bjelica subsequently put Afflalo in a devastating headlock, a power play leveraging the significant size he has over Afflalo. This prompted both teams and the referees alike to get involved in attempts to separate the players and diffuse the situation. Once detached, both players were ejected and the Magic ended up conjuring up a win of 108-102. Adding more insult to injury, Afflalo has since been suspended two games for the altercation.

“I was just trying to protect myself and to help him, to calm him down,” Bjelica said in reflection of the rumble as cited by FOX Sports.

But the week had yet more wrangling in store.  Most recently in the game between the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards, point guards for the opposing teams Michael Carter-Williams and Tim Frazier were both ejected after the Hornet saw fit to scream in Wizards’ center Jason Smith’s face after a hard boxout. Frazier tried to evade the referees attempts to hold him back in his efforts to get to Carter-Williams. Due to the ferocity of each players’ actions, both were ejected. In the end, the Hornets severely stung the Wizards with a final score of 133-109.

With all of the animosity that has been on display throughout the NBA this past week, one has to wonder what is prompting the sudden change in players’ attitudes and actions.  Perhaps it’s underlying resentment relating to NBA all-star snubs or maybe it’s just bad behavior, plain and simple. No matter the impetus, while these antics can demonstrate the heart, passion and intensity that drives the league, the hardwood is functioning more like a UFC octagon of late and, in my opinion, to the game’s detriment. A solid dose of anger management infused with coping strategies and rage redirection methods would surely do the NBA some good. My hat’s off to those players who do aptly rise to the occasion by keeping their emotions in perspective and their actions in check. Now that’s winning.

Mason Kern

Mason Kern, Host of ‘The Sports Watchdog’ Radio Show on KFNX 1100 Phoenix (also available globally in podcast form), spotlights newsworthy current events and happenings in the world of professional and college sports as well as notable sports and fitness gadgets and gear. Mason also frequently appears as a sportscasting guest on various TV and other radio programs, including Good Morning Arizona, KUSI-TV San Diego, NBC Sports Radio Phoenix and more. View his TV segment clips online at www.tinyurl.com/TTWVideos. Reach Mason on Twitter @ASportsWatchdog, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SportsWatchdog and on LinkedIn at www.tinyurl.com/TTW-Linkedin.