SAN FRANCISCO — Houston Rockets star guard Russell Westbrook says he must hold himself to a higher standard after being ejected from Thursday night’s 135-105 win over the Golden State Warriors.
Westbrook picked up his first technical foul with 7 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter after arguing a foul call and then received his second technical with 6:04 left in the fourth quarter after bumping guard Damion Lee and exchanging words with several Warriors players near Golden State’s bench.
After the game, Westbrook gave a long explanation of what transpired and shared how he feels his reputation for being emotional is leading to some of the calls.
“I think it’s a situation where I hold myself to a very, very high standard,” Westbrook said. “I think the refs, the fans, media, the NBA [is] put in a position now where I’m not really allowed to do much. Obviously, I’m an emotional guy, but if you watched the clip, obviously, I hit Lee, but it wasn’t on purpose. I’m going to the glass, he got hit, he said something to me, I said something to him. I’m standing there, a guy [Juan Toscano-Anderson] came and snatched the ball out of my hands. Guys come running up to me, I didn’t move, but I’m always the one that gets painted to be the bad guy in the whole situation.”
Westbrook said officials told him to back away from the situation, and that’s when more words were exchanged. Westbrook said one of the players began “talking mess to me.”
“I turned around and said, ‘What did you say?’ So now everybody’s running over to me, then I’m walking towards the thing, then [Kevon] Looney steps in front of me, so I feel like I’m in a position [where people think], ‘Oh well, Russ is being Russ,’ which nobody knows what that means.
“But I got to do a better job of holding myself accountable to a very, very high standard. And I’ll make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody and people paint me out to be a guy that I’m not. I just think it’s unfair that after all that, I’m the only one that gets a tech or kicked out. That’s not fair. I don’t care what nobody says. It’s so many other people involved in it that are doing so many things that weren’t OK, but I’m the one that gets the tech, gets ejected, and then everybody else is cool, and goes back and play. But like I said, I take responsibility for that and I hold myself to a very high standard of which I’ll uphold.”
After officials reviewed the situation, Westbrook was given his second technical and was ejected. He walked slowly off the floor, putting his arm around assistant coach John Lucas to share a few words, and then kept walking toward the tunnel as fans in Chase Center booed loudly.
“I just got to control myself, that’s it, control myself,” Westbrook said. “But I’m not backing down. I’m not. I wasn’t raised that way. So I don’t back to nobody, fear nobody but God, that’s it. Fear no man but God. I’ll always protect myself under any situation, but I also got to be smarter and understand what’s on the line for me. Or what’s my legacy, who’s watching me, my kids, my family. Make sure that I’m representing my family very, very well.”
When asked specifically if he thought officials had a faster whistle for fouls against him because of his reputation, Westbrook pointed out that despite being in the middle of the action all night, scoring 21 points and dishing out 10 assists, he did not go to the foul line.
“I’m at the basket more than probably anybody since I’ve been in the league — I got no free throws today,” he said. “But ideally I just got to keep going. … That’s just what it is. I’m OK with it. I’m a guy that’s going to compete every single night. I’ll go out and play my game and find ways to be effective. If they blow the whistle, they do. They don’t, who cares? I cannot allow it to affect who I am as a person and what I’m representing and who I am, so that’s on me.”
With two more technicals on Thursday night, Westbrook now sits at an NBA-high 13 technicals for the season. If a player reaches 16 technical fouls, that triggers an automatic one-game suspension.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he wasn’t concerned about Westbrook being able to control his emotions moving forward.
“He knows,” D’Antoni said. “He knows. He’ll play. He’s gotta play with an edge, and that’s him. And whatever happens, happens. We’ll take him. But he’ll be all right. He’s smart.”
Rockets star James Harden was asked if he thought Westbrook’s reputation was the reason for some of the technical fouls he picks up.
“I don’t know,” Harden said. “I think today, he got a tech and then he felt like he got fouled, I think he got fouled. So he showed his anger, as any player, if they feel like they got fouled numerous times and it wasn’t being called, they would express their emotions. I mean, everybody knows how he play and his emotion, and he did what he had to do.”
Westbrook also didn’t seem concerned about a potential suspension in the future. He says he believes he can keep his emotions in check when needed.
“You obviously got to be aware of it,” he said of the 13 technical fouls. “I’ll look at them and see which ones are real technical fouls and which ones are not. And then figure out how to do it, but I’ll be fine.”
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