MIAMI — The tension escalated within a matter of seconds. Frustrated over a silent whistle after attempting a mid-range jumper, Warriors guard Shaun Livingston approached referee Courtney Kirkland and expressed his displeasure. Both Livingston and Kirkland brushed foreheads, which quickly prompted Kirkland to toss Livingston out of the game. [restrict]
Seconds before Livingston was ejected with 6:54 left in the second quarter of the Warriors’ eventual 123-95 victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday, Warriors forward David West tried to diffuse the situation without success.
“They just got face-to- face. Emotions got up real fast,” West told Bay Area News Group. “All I tried to do is just get in between them. Usually both of those guys are pretty mild mannered. It caught me off guard. I was slipping a little bit. I’ll do better the next time.”
Why did West feel he was slipping? West could not help but laugh over the question.
“If that was Draymond [Green],” West said, smiling, “I would’ve been there immediately. I’m slipping.”
West’s point is well taken. While Green has become known for his emotional outbursts toward officials, Livingston is considered a valued veteran because of his steady play and calm demeanor. Livingston was ejected for just the second time in his 11-year NBA career. His other ejection happened in Game 4 of the 2016 Western Conference semifinals in Portland after arguing with official Scott Foster.
While Livingston did not speak to reporters, Kirkland provided a statement to a pool reporter.
“The reason that Shaun Livingston was ejected was for making physical contact with me,” Kirkland said to the pool reporter. “It was only one technical and he was ejected immediately. That’s basically it.”
Some on the Warriors also found Kirkland responsible for escalating the situation. Warriors forward Draymond Green noted, “there’s something else to it,” though he declined to draw any definitive conclusions.
“It did look like, watching it, that Courtney stepped into his face,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “He tossed him out. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully we move on and move past it.”
It is not immediately clear if the NBA will further punish Livingston. But Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he still plans to rest the 32-year-old Livingston for Monday’s game in New Orleans. He already has missed two games this season for the same reason.
“Shaun is a high character guy where you don’t see him in that position very often,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “I’m sure he wants to be out there with us and not let a missed call or heated situation take him out the game. But we got his back.”
Hence, Durant offered a similar sentiment.
“We know Shaun is not that type of player. He’s a pro that has been in the league for so long,” Durant said. “He just plays the game and doesn’t say much. You could tell things were a little heated right there. We felt he should’ve gotten two shots after that.”
So did Livingston, who shared his displeasure so quickly that West did not have time to intervene. He also said he did not have enough time to notice if Kirkland initiated the forehead contact with Livingston.
“I don’t know,” West said. “They’re going to have to figure that one out. That’s what NBA security is for.” [/restrict]