METAIRIE, La. (AP) New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins says he was protecting a rebound the way all big men are taught when he was ejected for a flagrant foul during a game against Oklahoma City.
Cousins was called for a flagrant-two foul when he raised his right elbow near Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s head during the third quarter of the Pelicans’ 114-107 victory Monday night.
Cousins, who did not speak about the play until after Tuesday’s practice, said Westbrook ”did a good job of selling” the foul in the way he fell to the floor, holding his head.
”It’s crazy. When you start playing the game of basketball as a big man, they tell you, `When you get a rebound, keep your elbows high and out,’ you know, to protect the ball from guards coming in stripping,” Cousins said. ”All I did was use my fundamentals and I got punished for it.”
Cousins, who has a history of on-court emotional outbursts that draw a relatively high number of technical fouls, said he knew officials would not give him the benefit of the doubt when they reviewed the play on a video monitor before ejecting him.
”I’m DeMarcus. I expected the ejection. I knew,” said Cousins, who was assessed a league-high 18 technical fouls last season.
Cousins added that he’s not sure what he can do differently going forward other than ”send the refs a Christmas card – I don’t know – the league, too. Send Christmas cards, stuff like that.”
The play occurred under the Pelicans’ basket in the third quarter after Cousins had secured a rebound. When Cousins raised his elbows near Westbrook’s face, the Thunder guard went down.
It wasn’t clear from replays showed to the crowd whether Cousins caught Westbrook in the head or shoulder, or if the contact was significant.
The league office reviews such plays before deciding on fines or additional punishment.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry agreed with Cousins’ comment about rebounding fundamentals, saying that Pelicans coaches also tell their big men to use the positioning of their elbows to help secure rebounds.
”I don’t think he had any intent on hurting anyone,” Gentry said. ”I don’t think there’s anything that was done from a malicious or intentional standpoint.”
Hard contact is not necessarily required for a flagrant-two foul. Only contact deemed ”unnecessary and excessive,” according to the NBA rule book, which also employs the term ”unsportsmanlike” in the section pertaining to flagrant fouls.
In some ways, the play appeared to be an extension of recent Thunder protests about officiating that drew $15,000 fines. Westbrook, Paul George and coach Billy Donovan all were fined for comments about a flagrant foul called against Carmelo Anthony, whose elbow made contact with Jusuf Nurkic’s head while Anthony was shooting the ball. Nurkic fell demonstratively to the floor and Anthony was ejected.
Russell complained that when he was struck in the head during a game, he didn’t receive the same treatment Nurkic did. And Donovan sarcastically said at the time that he ”probably didn’t ask Russell to stay down on the court long enough to get it reviewed.”
Cousins, meanwhile, said he was aware of how his ejection following contact with Westbrook fit into the Thunder’s own recent history with disputed flagrant fouls.
”It shows that Russ is coachable,” Cousins said. ”He listens and they got what they’ve been working on.”
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