Yes, that was really Kyrie Irving who took to Instagram to express his issue with Zaza Pachulia landing on Russell Westbrook during the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
While riding on the Celtics team bus from Madison Square Garden to the airport, Irving watched the controversial play and then offered his thoughts by posting: “The league has to take a look at this man, that [expletive] is ridiculous.”
On the play, Westbrook drove to the basket, missed, and dived for the rebound, falling to the floor after colliding with Golden State’s Nick Young. With Westbrook and Young sprawled on the floor, the 270-pound Pachulia also fell onto the legs of Westbrook.
Westbrook was not injured, but he and several teammates said later that it was a dirty play. Add Irving to the list of players who take issue with Pachulia’s tactics. The NBA did not reprimand Pachulia, who denied intentionally falling on Westbrook and said he was tripped by Young.
“I think everybody kind of saw what happened,” Irving told the Globe. “Whether Nick’s foot pushed him down forward, we’ve seen it over and over, and I don’t want to direct just him being a very, very dirty player strictly on him because a lot of dirty plays happen throughout the NBA, but I mean when it’s consistently happening.
“Russ felt the same way. Paul [George] felt the same way.”
Pachulia knocked San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard out of the Western Conference finals last spring after stepping on his ankle contesting a jumper. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich criticized Pachulia for his physical play.
“We’ve seen it happen before for years and years with him doing [expletive] like that,” Irving said. “I don’t want the league to just suspend him for 10 games but you’ve got to take a look at it or something. That’s unacceptable in this game.
“Guys who play in this league and play hard, we’re trying to keep everybody safe. I think it should be the same thing that’s echoed in front of everyone else. When it’s done like that and we know his intentions, it’s [expletive].”
Irving said the play was dirty and Pachulia is a repeat offender.
“We all saw what was going on,” he said. “Whether people want to admit it or not, that’s on them. But for me, I voiced my opinion. It’s not me going against the league. I felt that play was just unnecessary. It was totally unnecessary.”
When asked how often he expresses disdain on social media, he said: “Not often. I was on the bus after our game and I saw it and I was just like ‘man this [expletive] is ridiculous.’ Because then we’re talking about something totally different if Russ does get hurt and he has a 260-pound guy falling on his leg or his knee. And then we’re talking about something totally different.
“But since Russ didn’t get hurt, then it’s like, ‘OK then the play was clean.’ I’m always thinking about the what-ifs and you never know what could happen in situations like that.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@GwashburnGlobe.