How the Wizards reacted to Bulls forward Bobby Portis' flagrant foul on Tomas Satoransky on Saturday night could have created a much different conversation over the past few several days.
After Portis hooked Satoransky's arm, Satoransky lost control in the air and slammed his head on the court. It was a vicious fall and one Satoransky's teammates immediately knew was bad. Otto Porter rushed over and Kelly Oubre, Jr. followed. Porter and Marcin Gortat then waved to the Wizards bench across the court to alert the training staff.
While all that was going on, not one player retaliated. Portis continued to walk slowly around the court, apparently not caring much about Satoransky's well-being, something Satoransky noticed after the fact.
But nobody went after Portis, and here's why that's interesting. For one, it is uncharacteristic of the Wizards. Usually, they are quick to defend themselves.
There are several examples like Oubre when he shoved Kelly Olynyk down during the Wizards-Celtics playoff series last spring, Markieff Morris and Bradley Beal when Beal got tangled with Draymond Green in a game at the Warriors in October and last March when Brandon Jennings and Jason Smith got into a tussle with the Phoenix Suns. Along the way there have been other minor incidents to point to as well.
This time, however, they did nothing and truthfully they could not have picked a better time to keep the peace. All of those incidents above resulted in ejections and/or suspensions and the Wizards can't afford to lose anyone right now.
Satoransky was hurt by the fall and he was the third Wizards point guard to go out, as John Wall remains sideliend by a left knee injury and Tim Frazier suffered a broken nose earlier in the same game. That's all on top of a host of players being sick.
Morris missed the Bulls game, Ian Mahinmi left after playing one half and Jason Smith missed Monday's practice with a similar illness. The Wizards also gave Beal a day to rest, which left them with seven players in practice. It was so dire that a Wizards staffer had to play point guard. So did Porter and Oubre at times.
The Wizards are still determining the status of Satoransky and Frazier for Wednesday against the Knicks, their final game before the All-Star break. The break is coming at a good time, if they can get through this last game. Imagine if a player or two were suspended. That would certainly compound the problem.
"You don't want to put yourself in a position where you're going to miss games with a fight or anything like that," head coach Scott Brooks said. "You want to protect your teammates, but you want to make sure you don't lose your cool or temper."
As for why the Wizards kept their cool and didn't go after Portis, there are some theories. Maybe it was the product of a concerted effort to control emotions, knowing the team is already down a few players and can't afford to lose anymore. Maybe the players on the court were so shocked by Satoransky's fall that rushing to his aid took precedent over anything else.
Maybe, as some have pointed out, the fact Portis was the guy changed the dynamic. He is after all known to have a screw loose and did knock famously knock out his teammate Nikola Mirotic earlier this season. Some NBA players are tougher than others and he is near the top of the list of guys you don't want to mess with.
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Another theory is that the fact Morris wasn't there prevented the conflict from escalating. Morris prides himself as the Wizards' enforcer and his teammates love him for it. Whenever things get chippy, he usually steps in and regulates.
Sometimes he calms down the situation, sometimes he does not but you can always count on him being quick to join the party. Even when Morris was injured and in a suit, he ran onto the court and helped Beal engage with Green during the Wizards-Warriors scuffle.
Regardless, the Wizards have to feel very good about their reaction in hindsight because they didn't put themselves in jeopardy of punishment from the league. There were no fines and no suspensions. Perhaps we will see something go down the next time these teams play on April 1, but for now the Wizards deserve credit for keeping a level head in what could have been a much worse situation.
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