Antetokounmpo, Harrell involved in postgame altercation

In Sport

PHILADELPHIA – Stolen basketballs. Crashing ladders. Petty refusals and threats of violence.

This was the scene that dominated Friday night at Wells Fargo Center, which unfolded after the 76ers beat the Bucks 110-102.

Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to shoot extra foul shots after a terrible game he had at the line. The Sixers’ backup center Montrezl Harrell and a coaching staff member, Jason Love, returned to the court, and Harrell took the ball from Giannis and refused to give it back.

Harrell stood in the corner shaking his head and holding the ball while Antetokounmpo pleaded with him.

“This isn’t f—— Milwaukee,” Harrell barked at Antetokounmpo, as witnessed by The Athletic. “Get that s— out of there.”

As if a bench player taking the ball from a two-time MVP, after a game, and screaming at him wasn’t strange enough, the situation grew even more bizarre. Love stood between Giannis and Harrell and told Antetokounmpo he could not have a ball to shoot, and was not permitted to shoot on the floor 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 court and returned with two basketballs.

Only when he came back, a Wells Fargo Center employee pushed a large, A-frame ladder in front of the hoop where Giannis was shooting. Antetokounmpo asked the man to move the ladder so he could finish his shooting, and twice the man said no.

Now angry at the surprising circumstances he was facing, Giannis tried to move the ladder out of the way and wound up knocking it over. The arena employee scattered as the ladder crashed to the court.

Video of the incident with the ladder was posted to Twitter by a Philadelphia fan in the arena.

“I never try to disrespect anyone, in any way shape or form,” Antetokounmpo said, an hour after the incident. “I feel like today was just unfortunate event that took place. I think people did not respect the fact that sometimes players want to get some extra work in. I think it’s unprofessional to kick somebody off the court or take the ball or whatever the case might be. Or put the ladder in front of somebody while he’s trying to do his job. We get paid to do this. They didn’t just pick us. We get paid.”

There’s more. Antetokounmpo, now visibly frustrated, continued his work at one end of the floor, while Harrell was shooting at the other.

“Yeah I took the ball, get the f— outta here,” Harrell said, as Giannis shouted from his end: “I’m doing my f—— job.”

After Antetokounmpo left the court for good, his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, walked to midcourt to speak to Harrell. The Sixers’ reserve center threatened Thanasis, saying at separate times “I’ll beat your 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 workers immediately remove video equipment from the tops of both backboards after every game. Philadelphia hosts Minnesota at Wells Fargo on Saturday.

It seemed Harrell’s problem was that an opposing player, in this case, Giannis, should not try to get extra shots up as the visiting team after a game. But there is no rule, written or unwritten, preventing it, and players from both teams who either struggle to shoot, or didn’t get to play much, sometimes return to the floor after the game for a little extra work.

Giannis was still agitated when he returned to the locker room as he recounted the incident to his teammates, who shook their heads in disbelief. The atmosphere inside was tense, and quite, save for Giannis’ voice as he explained and re-explained what happened.

Then someone repeatedly turned the lights out in the room as players were trying to finish getting dressed, which upset even more of them.

It turned out the culprit was Liam Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ 2-year old son.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds. He is actually in the midst of the worst two-game stretch of his career at the foul line. In Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, Giannis shot 4-of-11.

“It just funny to me because I have a basketball court at my house and my kids always go and shoot, and whenever it gets to 9 p.m. I go and take the ball from their hands,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like we’re more mature than that. We are professional athletes that try to do our job. You can go and ask (Harrell). I offered him to shoot, let’s shoot together. Meanwhile, I don’t understand this because there’s a basket right behind me. There was another basket behind me. And, he chose to come to take my ball, have his coach get in front of me, and kind of bully me away from the court and go to the other basket.

“I’m not going to try to fight somebody. I have kids now, I gotta save my money. But now, if you guys see that as disrespect, that’s on you.”

Antetokounmpo is shooting a career-worst .587 from the foul line this season, but 8-of-26 in a two-game stretch can certainly skew the numbers this early in the schedule. In the two games before these last two foul-shot clunkers, he was 11-of-18 and 7-of-8 on free throws.

“I’m just not making them, simple as that,” Giannis said. “I don’t think there’s no issue. The ball is not going in.”

The Athletic‘s staff writer Eric Nehm contributed to this story.

(Photo: Eric Hartline / USA Today)

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