John Wall got lost in the moment, lost in emotion and the Wizards eventually lost, 101-92, to Golden State in part because of how he reacted to Warriors guard Klay Thompson knocking him to the floor twice in roughly 11 seconds.
After getting bumped to his backside and sliding on the hardwood, Wall quickly hopped up and circled Thompson’s direction, ignoring teammate Emeka Okafor’s attempts to get him to calm down. Wall had taken a hit to the noggin from Thompson while trying a layup on the previous possession. So as he approached Thompson, Wall shouted, “Go to the basket and I swear to God, I’ll knock your…out.”
Thompson leaned over and grabbed his shorts. Wall moved closer, towering over Thompson as he nodded and repeatedly shouted, “Go to the basket! Go to the basket!”
Thompson tried to turn away, but Wall kept jawing until referee Gary Zielinski sprinted toward Wall and Thompson and – without hesitation or an attempt to diffuse the situation with a warning – went directly to assessing the players with a double technical foul.
Since Wall had already picked up a technical foul in the first quarter, Zielinski signaled for Wall to leave the court and the Wizards were forced to trudge along without their most important player. Before getting escorted to the locker room, Wall ran over to plead his case to Coach Randy Wittman. Arms folded, Wittman didn’t need to hear an explanation; no matter what led to his heated exchange with Thompson, Wall needed to keep his anger contained.
“That’s your second tech, John,” Wittman said before walking away from Wall, flustered.
Wall got more animated, as he waved his arms and kicked out his leg, upset that he had to head to the showers early after collecting the third ejection of his career.
“I let the team down,” said Wall, who had a team-high 14 points when he got booted with 6 minutes, 41 seconds remaining and his team trailing, 69-57.
Wall has always been a passionate player, which works for him and against him at times, especially in difficult situations like the one he was confronted with on Saturday, when he felt the need to defend himself without considering the consequences. In just 36 games this season, Wall has six technical fouls. He had seven in each of his first two seasons in the league, in which he played 69 games and 66 games, respectively.
Early in the first quarter, Wall entered the danger zone when he attempted to keep up with Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and David Lee set a moving screen, going so far as stretch out his leg to keep Wall from getting to the desired spot. No foul was called and Wall started chirping with the referees. He didn’t stop until official Bill Kennedy gave him his first technical of the evening.
“I said something, because I felt like we didn’t get a call our way,” Wall explained after the game. “Nothing outrageous, but something I knew I would get a tech for.”
The Warriors continued to thrash the Wizards in the first half, with Curry and Thompson drilling shots from all over the floor. Wall got the Wizards off to a decent run back to start the third quarter before he had his first unfriendly encounter with Thompson.
Working a give and go with Nene, Wall went up for a layup when Thompson slapped down and caused Wall to go sprawling into the basket stanchion. Wall was on his back, looking up for a few seconds until he rose up and made both free throws.
Curry then tried to set up Thompson in the post on the next possession. Wall reached up, trying to get a steal and batted the ball out of bounds. But as he attempted to track down the ball, Thompson shielded him, then lowered his left hip and shoulder to send Wall flying back to the floor. No foul was called on the play, forcing Wall to handle matters on his own, well aware that his next technical would his last for the night.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, but the way I got hit those two times, I felt I like I was stating my point to say something and I guess they just gave me a technical,” Wall said.
Wall and Thompson were both participants in the Team USA select workouts last summer in Las Vegas, so they weren’t strangers. And asked afterward, Thompson said he understood how those two shoves pushed Wall over the edge.
“I would’ve been unhappy, too. But I’m not trying to get kicked out,” Thompson said. “I think he was just frustrated. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, though. I know John. I’ve played with him. In that moment, I understand. You’re frustrated. After you get fouled hard, then the next play you think you get fouled hard again. He’s competitive. He let his emotions get the best of him.”
Wall hadn’t received an ejection since March 30, 2011, when he threw a punch at the midsection of Zydrunas Ilguaskas in the second quarter of a loss to the Miami Heat. At that time, Wall took exception to two elbows to the face from Ilguaskas. He went almost two years without losing his cool again and Wittman said he hopes Wall understands his value to the team after his latest incident with Thompson.
“It’s a lesson learned,” Wittman said. “When you get an early technical. You can’t get into anything, talking on the floor. You’ve got to know that, ‘I’ve got one technical.’ I can’t get into a situation where Klay Thompson and him got into a little bit. They give them a double technical. That’s your second and you’re out. He’s got to learn that. Hopefully, it’s a lesson.”
Wall was disappointed because the ejection didn’t just cost him $7,000 ($2,000 for his fifth technical; $3,000 for his sixth technical; and $2,000 for an ejection). His team was put in more of a bind, since it was already without Bradley Beal (left ankle), Trevor Ariza (flu) and A.J. Price (groin) and he had been carrying them offensively for much of this month. In his previous seven games, Wall was averaging 23.4 points, 10.4 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals, while also shooting 55.5 percent from the field.
“It’s tough because I felt like this is one we had a chance to win and our team did a great job of still fighting and competing,” Wall said. “I just let them down.”