When Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo knocked over a ladder belonging to the Philadelphia Wells Fargo Center crew, as they were breaking down the court following the 76ers‘ 110-102 victory over the Bucks, the condemnation on social media was swift and furious.
It was, in the opinion of a variety of former players and coaches, as well as current scouts and GMs, also completely misplaced.
A quick synopsis of what transpired: Antetokounmpo, after missing 11 of 15 free throws in the loss, went back out onto the court after the game to work on his shot. His routine, he explained later, is to make 10 in a row before he’s done. He had three to go when Philadelphia forward Montrezl Harrell came onto the court, grabbed Antetokounmpo’s ball after it fell through the net and refused to give it back. After a long exchange in which Antetokounmpo tried to convince Harrell to give back the ball, Harrell walked to the other end with a trainer and a second ball and began shooting mid-range jumpers.
Antetokounmpo finally walked back to the locker room and this time returned with two balls, presumably in case another 76er showed up to steal one.
In the meantime, though, the arena crew had taken the floor and placed a ladder in front of the basket Antetokounmpo had been using. Antetokounmpo walked over and moved the ladder, but a crew member, perhaps taking 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 to the side again, this time a little more forcefully. And, considering it was 15 feet high with rubber feet to protect the wooden court, it tipped over.
Someone caught the exchange between Antetokounmpo and the crew, including the ladder crashing to the floor, and posted it on social media. Antetokounmpo was roundly denounced for treating the crew as if he were an arrogant superstar and interfering with their work. ESPN analyst and former player Kendrick Perkins tweeted, “Giannis full of s— for this!!! Real Talk.”
That’s not how those within the league, presently or formerly, saw it when the entire story came out. Their view: Harrell was way out of line.
“I know Montrezl pretty well,” a former player and now Western Conference scout said. “He’s wired that way. … What he did was wrong. You should have respect for your opponent.”
Another Western Conference scout was even harsher.
There is an unwritten code in the NBA that players who are not in the rotation should refrain from talking trash or doing anything else that might motivate an opponent, because they’re essentially lighting a fire their teammates are now charged with putting out. Harrell had played five minutes that night and is only averaging 10 minutes a game for the season.
“I admire Giannis, who sincerely wanted to get better,” the second Western Conference scout said. “Montrezl is always talking and in the middle of something.”
A former head coach had a similar view. “That was ridiculous bulls— by Harrell,” he said. “He’s a stat guy. Plays no D. The Greek Freak is too nice of a guy. He kept his composure.”
There have been occasional acts of gamesmanship over the years — Warriors‘ legend Chris Mullin tells of an incident where he went to shoot at the Lakers arena the night before a playoff game and was told the lights weren’t working — but no one contacted could recall a player denying another player the opportunity to work on his game.
“That incident was bizarre,” an Eastern Conference GM said. “I have never seen that before. But it’s Philly. Nothing surprises me.”
It is far more common for a player to go back out onto the court to shoot at home than on the road, especially a star who has media responsibilities before catching the team bus to the airport or hotel. But considering the circumstances — a loss to an Eastern Conference rival and this being the second game in a row Antetokounmpo had double-digit free-throw attempts and made fewer than 40% — it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to wait to fix the problem.
Another former player also said he’d never faced or heard of such an incident before. As for protocol, he said, “It depends on if both halves of the court are open. If they’re breaking down one side of the court, the opposing team’s player has got to give up the hoop. If both halves of the court are open, then let the opposing player shoot.”
That’s not what happened here. Harrell didn’t take Giannis’ basket, he just took his ball. Which might not have been the wisest decision, considering how well the Lakers’ attempt to keep Mullin from a shooting session worked: He had 41 points on 16-for-21 shooting to lead the Warriors to a one-point win.
The 76ers and Bucks meet again March 4 in Milwaukee.
REACTION TO THE LATEST PAT BEV-SUNS RUCKUS
Los Angeles Lakers guard Patrick Beverley, who has made a career out of being both an irritant and an enforcer, also received heavy public criticism recently.
Several media outlets called for him to receive a multi-game suspension after he was ejected from the Lakers’ recent loss to the Phoenix Suns. Beverley knocked Suns center DeAndre Ayton to the ground after he stood over L.A.’s Austin Reaves, who had been smacked in the face on a drive to the basket by Suns guard Devin Booker. After review, Booker’s foul was upgraded from common to a Flagrant Foul Penalty 1. Ayton also received a technical foul.
The Suns considered the shove a cowardly act — and not Beverley’s first. The play was reminiscent of an incident with Phoenix point guard Chris Paul in the 2021 Western Conference finals, when Beverley was a member of the LA Clippers. Paul was walking back to the Suns’ bench for a timeout, said something over his shoulder to Beverley. Beverley turned and charged into Paul from behind, and was ejected from that game as well, a blowout win for Phoenix that clinched the series.
Pat Bev also received an additional one-game suspension at the start of the 2021-22 season.
But rival scouts weren’t so quick to co-sign the Suns’ perspective on Beverley’s actions this time. One Eastern Conference scout suggested Booker and Ayton were the instigators and the referees should’ve immediately stepped in and assessed Ayton a technical foul for taunting. A second Eastern Conference scout suggested Ayton also displayed a certain degree of cowardice.
“I noticed Ayton didn’t jump up very quick until he knew there were enough people there to separate them,” the scout said. “Pat Bev should not be getting crushed for this.”
The first scout agreed, but isn’t convinced the league will see it 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 written two books, “Rebound,” on NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.
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