Russell Westbrook rarely needs the motivation to turn up the intensity on the court on any given night, but the Spurs and Zach Collins provided it to him on Saturday. Late in the third quarter of the Lakers eventual win over San Antonio, Westbrook was fouled hard in the paint and knocked to the floor.
Even by the time he immediately leapt back up to confront Collins, Westbrook had a stream of blood coming down his face and the scene quickly looked like something more of the aftermath of an MMA fight as opposed to an NBA game.
Don't Touch Russ— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) November 27, 2022
Zach Collins has been ejected with a flagrant two foul. pic.twitter.com/vFyEPOQn8c
After the immediate flurry of emotions, LeBron James pulled Westbrook away to get treatment and tensions simmered. Collins was eventually assessed a flagrant-2 foul and ejected while Westbrook was assessed a technical as well.
“No. I was confused on that one myself,” Westbrook said of why he received his technical. “I wasn’t sure why I got it. I’ll check with the league and talk to them about it and figure out why that was. Maybe, probably because I hopped up…maybe I got up too fast. I don’t know.”
Even if an emotional reaction might have felt warranted on a blow that drew blood and led to an ejection, Westbrook wasn’t given a pass.
“It was a tough blow, obviously,” LeBron, who may have saved Westbrook from his own ejection in the kerfuffle, said postgame. “But I didn’t want to let Russ escalate it any further, especially with him bleeding like that. I didn’t want the headrush or anything to happen after that contact. Just tried to step in there and defuse it as much as possible.
“I saw where the cut was immediately. It was just common sense to put pressure on the cut right away. Don’t let it continue to go. Before we became teammates, we’ve always been like brothers and cool and things of that nature. His health is more important than the game of basketball. We were just trying to stop that and let the training staff do their job after we got him over to the bench. I actually saw the cut right when it happened once he got up off the floor and wanted to...[laughs] wanted to do something to Zach.”
The LeTrainer, LeMedic and LeDoctor jokes wrote themselves as LeBron grabbed the towel from the training staff to stop the bleeding on Westbrook’s forehead. Even Westbrook could admit after the game that his teammates might have saved him from himself on Saturday.
“Probably so, yeah. Probably so,” Westbrook said. “Initial reaction is, obviously, hop up and see what’s going on. But, obviously, once I’m bleeding, players kind of calmed down and take care of that.”
LeConflictDiffuser? LeMediator? We’ll workshop that one.