Not even Dwight Howard knew why he was given a technical foul on Sunday.
In one of the most bizarre moments in recent preseason NBA history, Howard went from the fouled to fouled out with a 10-minute review, a technical foul and an attempted free throw from a disqualified Howard in-between in the third quarter of a preseason loss to the Nets.
While I can try to explain it all, knowing the facts won’t change the absurdity of the situation.
The sequence began with a loose ball foul called on Day’Ron Sharpe on an Austin Reaves made 3-pointer as he and Howard jockeyed for position in the post. Amidst the jockeying, an errant elbow from Howard inadvertently caught Sharpe in the mouth, triggering a review by the replay officials.
What ensued was a review that would have felt much more commonplace in the NBA Finals and far, far from the preseason opener on October 3. While it was fairly obvious to fans that Howard’s elbow unintentionally caught Sharpe, the officials appeared to require dozens of views of each angle to come to that conclusion.
Alas, during the review, Howard and Trevor Ariza, who did not suit up for the game, stood at midcourt when James Harden, who also did not play, walked out to talk to them. The conversation seemed rather innocuous but the referee standing between them whistled Howard — and only Howard — for a technical foul, also further delaying the already lengthy review.
Minutes later, the officials finally finished their review and assessed a flagrant foul to Howard, who at that point had officially fouled out of the game as a result.
However, no official seemed privy to that information and Howard shot (and made!) a free throw for the original loose ball foul before officials realized that the big man was actually ineligible and could not shoot the free throw.
Order was eventually restored, Chaundee Brown subbed in for Howard, who received a loud ovation upon checking out, and missed the free throw and the game carried on. However, even after the contest, Howard had no clue what led to his technical.
“Oh man, that was crazy,” Howard said. “That sequence was crazy. I didn’t know I got a tech. I got a tech for standing by Trevor (Ariza). Then I got a flagrant foul after the guy got a foul on me...I didn’t know I got a tech because I didn’t do anything to deserve one but I’m still going to go out there and have fun, play hard and play aggressive.”
Ultimately, Howard fouled out on the night in only 13 minutes but also taught fans an important lesson that it’s preseason for the officials as well. But if his fouling out led to one of the most meme-able moments of the season just one game into the year, then we should consider it a net win on the night.