Missed call on Nets deflection looms large for Wizards in loss


WASHINGTON -- Joe Blair is already in an unfamiliar position as Wizards acting head coach, as the replacement to the replacement with both Wes Unseld Jr. and Pat Delany in health and safety protocols. Blair has plenty of coaching experience at other levels, but nothing in his past can compare to what he saw on Wednesday night in the team's loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

With 5:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, Nets assistant coach David Vanterpool reached out from the bench and deflected a pass from Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie to Kyle Kuzma. It resulted in a Wizards turnover and a chaotic few moments as the Wizards aimed to close the gap late against Brooklyn.

The referees missed the interference by Vanterpool, as confirmed by crew Ben Taylor postgame in a pool report. While it did not directly lead to points for the Nets, after a game in which they lost by one, several members of the Wizards expressed shock at the missed call.

"My reaction was utter disbelief. I've never seen, in my very long time in basketball, something happen like that that the referees didn't see," Blair said.

According to the NBA rulebook, Rule 8, Section II states "If the ball is interfered with by an opponent seated on the bench or standing on the sideline (Rule 12A—Section II—a(7)), it shall be awarded to the offended team out-of-bounds nearest the spot of the violation."


So, at a minimum, it should have been Wizards ball. The referees may have been able to call a technical foul at their discretion if they deemed the act unsportsmanlike.

Immediately after the deflection, Kuzma committed a foul on Patty Mills on the other end of the floor, solely to yell at the referees for the missed call, he said. Afterward, he regretted doing so, wishing he had controlled his emotions.

But he wasn't happy and made that clear in his postgame press conference.

"That was also horses---, too. Coaches should not be able to stand up... AAU basketball. That's what it looked like," he said.

The consensus from the Wizards, beyond frustration at the missed call, was also that it didn't solely determine the result of the game. Though it was a close one in the end, they allowed 74 points in the first half and a season-high 27 points to LaMarcus Aldridge off the bench.

The Wizards also had two opportunities for go-ahead shots in the closing seconds, including one by Kuzma. They still could have won the game.

"It's unfortunate, we can't do anything about it. Would that have changed the game? Maybe, maybe not," Bradley Beal said.

Though it will be no consolation for the Wizards, it's possible Vanterpool will be penalized for his interference. The Wizards know the consequences of such a move well, as former team assistant Sidney Lowe was fined $5,000 back in 2017 in a game against the Knicks.