DALLAS — Celtics forward Jae Crowder and Wizards coach Randy Wittman on Monday offered differing explanations of their strange verbal altercation that resulted in Crowder receiving a technical foul late in the Celtics’ 119-117 win Saturday night.
With 22.8 seconds left and the Celtics leading by 3 points, Wizards guard John Wall was fouled as he attempted a 3-pointer. Below the basket, Crowder and Wizards center Nene briefly tangled, and Nene hit Crowder in the face, perhaps inadvertently. Crowder fell to the ground. The officials reviewed the play to see if a flagrant foul had been committed, but they decided one had not.
Crowder said Wittman then began yelling profanities in his direction and calling him soft. After Wall took his first free throw, Crowder screamed back at Wittman and was whistled for a technical foul.
Wittman told reporters in Washington on Monday that he noticed tensions escalating between Crowder and Nene, and that his words were directed toward that situation. When asked whether he had used profanity, he questioned what words would be defined as profane.
“I’m trying to tell the official something else is going to happen, and [Crowder] saw that and didn’t like it,” Wittman said. “That’s all it was. I’m standing right next to the officials, so if I’m doing something that shouldn’t have been done, the official would have noticed that.”
Crowder acknowledged that he and Nene had been in a mild verbal dispute, too, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“It wasn’t nothing aggressive like that to get a technical foul,” Crowder said. “It was going to be resolved, and then I hear [Wittman] over there saying what he was saying and that’s what got my attention . . . I was like, ‘What? Is that coming from him?’ That caught me by surprise. If you watch the film, everything caught me by surprise. I let a lot of words go and I just retaliated, and I got hit.”
Crowder said it was the first time he’s ever had such an encounter with an opposing coach, and he found the incident as strange as anyone.
“I think a lot of stuff he was saying [about being soft] was not true,” Crowder said. “And the manner he was saying it really got under my skin as well. You know, it was the heat of the moment. I’ve got to be better than that, though.”
The Celtics and the Wizards will face each other again in Washington next Monday.
A sad ‘celebration’
Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Sunday gave a eulogy at the Indianapolis memorial service for his former Butler player Andrew Smith, who died last Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
“Obviously the circumstances were really tough,” Stevens said. “Speaking was hard, just being obviously a lot of sadness. But they really treated it as a celebration of Andrew’s life. I got a chance to see a lot of our former players and spend a lot of time with them afterward. And so like I said, a lot of sadness. But you treated it as a celebration.”
Stevens spoke for six minutes at the service, touching on his memories of Smith, 25, as a basketball player and also discussing the courage he had in fighting his disease for so long. When he concluded his eulogy, he looked toward the sky and said, “You did well, big fella.”
“Hopefully I did a service to him with regard to how he was represented,” Stevens said.
Thomas is deserving
The NBA All-Star voting closed on Monday, and in the most recent tally released by the NBA, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas appeared to be quite a long shot to be voted in as a starter; he had received the ninth-most votes among Eastern Conference backcourt players.
But the reserves will be selected by the coaches, and on Monday Stevens vouched for Thomas, who entered Monday averaging 21.8 points and 6.6 assists per game.
“Those spots are earned, and [Thomas] sure has done a lot of work,” Stevens said. “I mean, he’s not only a dynamic scorer, but the way that he’s able to run the offense, the way that he’s been able to defend for us, just his all-around game, I think obviously he’s elevated our team. The other thing is, as far as like putting the ball in the basket over the last few weeks, he’s been as good as anybody. That consistency to me merits that honor.
“There’s a lot of good players in the league, I understand that. I don’t know that they’re all as impactful on their teams as Isaiah is on ours.”
Mickey has sprained ankle
The Celtics recalled rookie forward Jordan Mickey from the D-League’s Maine Red Claws on Monday, but Stevens said it was to bring him back to Boston to evaluate an ankle sprain he suffered in Maine’s loss to the Canton Charge on Saturday. Mickey is not expected to join the Celtics on their current road trip, and Stevens said he was unsure how long Mickey might would be sidelined.