No matter how the NBA league office eventually rules on whether to suspend John Wall after his second-quarter altercation with Miami Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Coach Flip Saunders said the incident probably never should’ve reach the point where there were three ejections and two technical fouls. Wall said he swung at Ilgauskas in reaction to getting hit in the face with two elbows.
“What I was disappointed in, you would think, you would hope out there, in a game, that when a guy throws two elbows and then a third, they would catch the first one, with three referees out there. And he’s got the ball. That’s what they’re watching, you know,” Saunders said with a chuckle. “If you nip it in the bud right away, it doesn’t escalate like that.”
After Wall and Ilgauskas got tangled, JaVale McGee tried to separate them when Juwan Howard made the situtation worse by shoving McGee and squaring up as if he wanted to throw down. After Othyus Jeffers eventually walked Wall away from the scene, the officiating crew of Monty McCutchen, Brent Barnaky and Tom Washington spent nearly 10 minutes before determining that Ilgauskas and Wall would get flagrant foul penalty twos and that Howard would get ejected for escalation. Wall received applause and high-fives as he left, while Ilgauskas, who paid $1.5 million not to play for the Wizards last season after getting traded for Antawn Jamison, gave fans at Verizon Center two middle fingers as he walked through the tunnel.
The comic relief followed, when Saunders and Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra had to select an opposing player to shoot the technical foul shots. Spoelstra picked rookie Hamady Ndiaye, who had a look upon his face that said, “How did I get into all of this?”
“That’s exactly the reaction that I had,” Ndiaye said with a laugh afterward. “I did not expect that one. I was really surprised. For me to even go shoot a technical foul. Coach said to me, before I got there, ‘This might me the only technical foul you ever shoot in your career.’ I was, ‘Ooookay.’ I kind of got very nervous in a second.”
Ndiaye had taken 10 free throws all season, making six, but he had never gone to the line with no one standing out around the painted area and more than 18,000 fans seeing what he was going to do and wondering exactly who he was. “It’s empty out here,” Ndiaye said he told himself when he went to the foul line. “That’s all I saw. Nobody around. Everybody looking at me. Whoo. I tried to focus. But when I saw the tape, it was the quickest foul shots I have every shot. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just shot it. I was a little nervous.”
Ndiaye followed with two line drives that didn’t come close to going in. Saunders picked Jamaal Magloire to shoot for the Heat and he made one of two shots to tie the game at 37. Ndiaye entered the game for McGee and played 48 seconds. He didn’t score or rebound in that short stint, but he did step in front of LeBron James to take a charge, which made him proud -- and a little sore.
“I knew I was in, I said, ‘I got to do something,’ ” Ndiaye said. “I saw him come at me. Honestly, I couldn’t really react much. He was going fast and going for it. So I had to do something. I took one for the team. I was hurting a little bit, but it was worth it.”