PHILADELPHIA – Stolen basketballs. Shattering scales. Mean refusals and threats of violence.
It was the scene that dominated Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, unfolding after the 76ers beat the Bucks 110-102.
Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo attempted to fire some extra shots after a terrible game he had on the line. Sixers backup center Montrezl Harrell and a member of the coaching staff, Jason Love, returned to the field, and Harrell took the ball from Giannis and refused to return it.
Harrell stood in the corner, shaking his head and holding the ball as Antetokounmpo begged him.
“It’s not f—— Milwaukee,” Harrell barked at Antetokounmpo, as evidenced by Athleticism. “Get that s— out of there.”
Video of Montrezl Harrell taking the ball away as Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots free throws after the game:
🎥 Mahktar Ndiaye & @joevardon pic.twitter.com/6jACYFTee4
— Athletics (@TheAthletic) November 19, 2022
As if a bench player taking the ball from a two-time MVP, after a game, and yelling at him wasn’t weird enough, the situation just got weirder. Love stood between Giannis and Harrell and told Antetokounmpo that he couldn’t have a ball to shoot and was not allowed to take a ground shot after the game.
So Antetokounmpo, who had shot 4 of 15 from the line during the game, for the worst shooting performance of his career, left the field and returned with two basketballs.
It wasn’t until he returned that a Wells Fargo Center employee pushed a large A-frame ladder past the hoop where Giannis was shooting. Antetokounmpo asked the man to move the ladder so he could finish his shot, and twice the man said no.
Now angry at the startling circumstances he was facing, Giannis tried to move the ladder out of the way and ended up knocking it over. The arena employee scattered as the ladder crashed into the field.
Video of the incident with the ladder was posted to Twitter by a Philadelphia fan in the arena.
Giannis throws the ladder and disrespects the employees of@WellsFargoCtrafter losing to@sixers. pic.twitter.com/DBrRu1nq7K
— Denis Moore (@dem389) November 19, 2022
“I never try to disrespect anyone in any way,” Antetokounmpo said, an hour after the incident. “I feel like today was just an unfortunate event that happened. I think people didn’t respect the fact that sometimes players want to do extra work. I think It’s not professional to kick someone off the field or take the ball or anything. Or put the ladder in front of someone while they’re trying to do their job. We get paid to do that. They didn’t just pick us, we got paid.
There is more. Antetokounmpo, now visibly frustrated, continued his work at one end of the floor, while Harrell fired at the other.
“Yeah, I got the ball, get out of here,” Harrell said, as Giannis shouted from his side, “I’m doing my f—— job.”
After Antetokounmpo left the field for good, his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, went to midfield to talk to Harrell. The Sixers’ reserve center threatened Thanasis, at different times saying “I’ll beat you a-” and “you better send that s- back to the locker room.” Thanasis walked away without incident.
The Sixers declined to comment, but a league source said arena employees immediately remove video equipment from the top of both backboards after each game. Philadelphia hosts Minnesota at Wells Fargo on Saturday.
It seemed Harrell’s problem was that an opposing player, in this case Giannis, shouldn’t be trying to get extra shots as the visiting team after a game. But no rules, written or unwritten, prevent this, and players from both teams who are struggling to shoot or haven’t played much sometimes return to the floor after the game for a little extra work.
Giannis was still flustered as he returned to the dressing room recounting the incident to his teammates, who shook their heads in disbelief. The atmosphere inside was tense and calm, save for Giannis’ voice as he explained and re-explained what had happened.
Then someone repeatedly turned off the lights in the room as the players tried to finish getting dressed, which upset them even more.
It turned out that the culprit was Liam Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ 2-year-old son.
Antetokounmpo finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds. He’s actually in the middle of the worst two-game streak of his career on the foul line. In Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, Giannis shot 4 of 11.
“It’s just funny to me because I have a basketball court at my house and my kids are always going to shoot, and every time he comes around at 9 p.m. I’m going to take the ball out of their hands,” said Antetokounmpo. “I feel like we’re more mature than that. We are professional athletes trying to do our job. You can go ask (Harrell). I offered to shoot, let’s shoot together. In the meantime, I don’t understand because there is a basket right behind me. There was another basket behind me. And, he opted to come and take my ball, run his coach past me, and kind of intimidate me away from the field and go into the other basket.
“I’m not going to try to fight anyone. I have children now, I have to save my money. But now, if you see that as disrespect, it’s your fault.
Antetokounmpo is shooting a career-worst .587 from the foul line this season, but 8-of-26 in two games can certainly skew the numbers this early in the schedule. In the two games before those last two free kicks, he was 11 of 18 and 7 of 8 on free throws.
Athleticismit is staff writer Eric Nehm contributed to this story.
(Photo: Eric Hartline/USA Today)
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