FOX Sports NBA Analyst
When Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo knocked over a ladder belonging to the Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center crew as they destroyed the court after the 76ers’ 110-102 win over the Bucks, condemnation on social media was swift and furious.
It was also completely out of place in the opinion of various former players and coaches, as well as current scouts and GMs.
A quick recap of what happened: Antetokounmpo, after missing 11 free throws from 15 in the loss, went back on court after the game to work on his shot. His routine, he later explained, is to do 10 in a row before he’s done. He had three left to play when Philadelphia forward Montrezl Harrell came on the court, snatched Antetokounmpo’s ball after it fell through the net and refused to return it. After a long exchange of blows in which Antetokounmpo tried to convince Harrell to return the ball, Harrell went to the other end with a coach and a second ball and started firing at middle-distance jumpers.
Antetokounmpo eventually went back to the locker room and this time returned with two balls, presumably in case another 76er showed up to steal one.
Meanwhile, the arena team had spoken up and put a ladder in front of the basket that Antetokounmpo had used. Antetokounmpo walked over and moved the ladder, but a crewman, perhaps on his cue from Harrell, pulled it back in front of the rim as soon as Antetokounmpo started walking back to the free-throw line.
Antetokounmpo then walked over and pushed the ladder aside again, this time a little harder. And considering it was 15 feet tall and had rubber feet to protect the lumber yard, it tipped over.
Someone caught the exchanges between Antetokounmpo and the crew, including the ladder crashing to the ground, and posted them on social media. Antetokounmpo was harshly criticized for treating the crew like an arrogant superstar and interfering in their work. ESPN analyst and former player Kendrick Perkins tweeted, “Giannis sh… for that!!! real talk.”
That’s not how the members of the League saw it now, nor did they before when the whole story came out. Her take: Harrell was way out of line.
“I know Montrezl pretty well,” said a former player-turned-Western Conference scout. “He’s so wired. … What he did was wrong. You should have respect for your opponent.”
Another Western Conference Boy Scout was even tougher.
There’s an unwritten code in the NBA that off-rotation players shouldn’t talk trash or do anything else that might motivate an opponent, because they’re essentially starting a fire for their teammates to now put out. Harrell had played five minutes that night and is averaging just ten minutes a game this season.
“I admire Giannis, who genuinely wanted to get better,” said the Western Conference second scout. “Montrezl is always talking and right in the middle.”
A former head coach saw it similarly. “They were ridiculous cops – by Harrell,” he said. “He’s a stats guy. Doesn’t play a D. The Greek freak is too nice a guy. He kept his composure.”
There have been occasional acts of playmanship over the years – Warriors legend Chris Mullin recounts an incident where he shot into the Lakers arena the night before a playoff game and was told the lights weren’t working – but no one contacted was able to recall a player denying another player the opportunity to work on their game.
“This incident was bizarre,” said an Eastern Conference GM. “I’ve never seen that before. But it’s Philly. Nothing surprises me.”
It’s far more common for a player to go back on the pitch to shoot at home than on the street, especially a star who has media responsibilities, before catching the team bus to the airport or hotel. But given the circumstances — a loss to an Eastern Conference rival and this the second straight game Antetokounmpo has had double-digit free-throw attempts and scored less than 40% — it’s understandable why he didn’t want to wait to fix the problem.
Another former player also said he had never experienced or heard of such an incident before. On record, he said: “It depends on both halves of the pitch being open. If they destroy one side of the court, the opposing team’s player must give up the hoop. If both halves of the field are open, let the opposing player shoot.”
That didn’t happen here. Harrell didn’t take Giannis’ basket, he just took his ball. Which might not have been the wisest decision given how well the Lakers’ attempt to keep Mullin from shooting worked: He had 41 points in the 16-on-21 -Shoot to lead the Warriors to a one-point victory.
The 76ers and Bucks meet again on March 4 in Milwaukee.
RESPONDING TO THE LATEST PAT BEV-SUNS RUCKUS
Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Beverley, who made a career of being both a nuisance and an enforcer, has also recently come under heavy public criticism.
Multiple media outlets called for a multigame suspension after he was ruled out following the Lakers’ recent loss to the Phoenix Suns. Beverley knocked down Suns center DeAndre Ayton after standing over LA’s Austin Reaves, who was punched in the face by Suns guard Devin Booker on a drive to the basket. After review, Booker’s foul was upgraded to Flagrant Foul Penalty 1 by Common. Ayton also received a technical foul.
The Suns thought the shove was a cowardly act – and not Beverley’s first. The play commemorated an incident involving Phoenix point guard Chris Paul in the 2021 Western Conference Finals when Beverley was a member of the LA Clippers. Paul went back to the Suns’ bench for a time-out and said something over his shoulder to Beverley. Beverley turned and charged at Paul from behind and was knocked out of that game too, a blowout victory for Phoenix, who won the series.
Pat Bev was also suspended for one game at the start of the 2021/22 season.
But rival scouts were not so quick to endorse the Suns’ take on Beverley’s actions this time. An Eastern Conference scout suggested Booker and Ayton as instigators, and the umpires should have stepped in immediately and given Ayton a technical foul for taunting. A second Eastern Conference scout suggested that Ayton also displayed a degree of cowardice.
“I noticed that Ayton didn’t jump up very quickly until he knew there were enough people to separate them,” the scout said. “Pat Bev shouldn’t be crushed for that.”
The first scout agreed, but isn’t convinced the league will feel the same way.
“Pat Bev’s reputation will get him a game or two,” he said.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books, Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds. He also has a daily podcast, On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.
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