|Kevin Garnett was a little chagrined when he got ejected from last night’s game. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)|
They’re getting a techs message
Garnett ejected as fouls mount
NEW YORK — Jermaine O’Neal heard the tweets of the whistle in what felt like three seconds, and he had little idea what was going on.
All he had a firm grasp of was that he had earned his second technical foul in two days while trying to debate referee Zach Zarba about what constitutes an over-the-back foul.
It was at the 4:39 mark in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 104-101 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last night when O’Neal walked up to Zarba.
Zarba told him, “Walk away,’’ O’Neal recalled.
O’Neal, in his “soft, bedroom voice,’’ as he described it, asked, “I can’t even talk to you now?’’
At that point O’Neal was dazed. What he didn’t know was how upset Kevin Garnett was.
“I was still dazed from my tech,’’ O’Neal said. “I turned around, heard two whistles, and Kevin was gone. You’re talking about two techs to Kevin in a matter of seconds.’’
For jawing with official Kane Fitzgerald, Garnett got the emphatic heave-ho. The fact that he was being ejected from an exhibition left him in utter disbelief. He could not be reached for comment after the game. Coach Doc Rivers looked incredulous after the sequence played out, and even Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was shaking his head that Garnett was ejected.
But Rivers didn’t entirely back Garnett after the game.
“Listen, the rules are the rules and we have to have more discipline,’’ Rivers said. “Kevin, JO, I told all of them that. Whether they deserved it or not, I think both sides, we’ve got to use our judgment a little bit better. It shouldn’t be just a tech [for debating a call]. Having said that, we know the rules. We have to have discipline. We can’t worry about them. We have to be better.’’
The technical foul-prone Celtics are already in midseason form. Thankfully, the nine techs they’ve amassed in just five preseason games won’t count when the season starts.
Overshadowed was the fact that Paul Pierce staved off the possibility of a preseason overtime game on the same night as a preseason ejection by making a 23-footer with 8 seconds left to break a 101 tie. Pierce finished with 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, knocking down the winner on his birthday.
“Basically, I had an 11 o’clock reservation I had to make. So I didn’t want to stay any longer than I had to,’’ he said.
Ray Allen led the Celtics with 24 points, helping to neutralize a 30-point night from Amar’e Stoudemire.
Garnett scored 6 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists in 9 minutes in the first quarter. He was barely on the court for two minutes in the second quarter before being tossed.
Emphasizing “respect for the game,’’ the NBA set new guidelines concerning technical fouls entering the season. The Celtics met with officials Sunday at the Garden before their win over the Raptors. By that point they already had four techs as a team.
Over the past three seasons, no team has been called for more techs than the Celtics (321). Last season, they led the league with 107. Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace were the most prolific at drawing Ts, but the Celtics are piling the whistles up fine without them.
“We lost two of our more talented tech players for right now,’’ Rivers said, “but eventually we’ll get it.’’
O’Neal is no stranger to techs (he picked up 10 last year), but he didn’t understand why the rules have tightened so drastically.
“You have a certain amount of seconds to get away from the ref,’’ he said. “If you can’t ask the ref, ‘What can you do?’ they’re basically taking everything out of the game, taking all emotions out of the game. You’ve got to be able to give a person the opportunity to back away and say, ‘I’ve got one already, I can’t get thrown out.’ But to give them that quick is tough.’’
Pierce was whistled for one in the first quarter last week against the Nets for arguing a non-call, not realizing the rules had changed.
“The refs are making a statement here in the preseason but the players are going to adjust,’’ said Pierce. “I didn’t think that warranted [Garnett] getting kicked out. But, hey, they’re making a stand in the preseason so by the time the season starts we’ve got to adjust.’’
The back spasms that have nagged West the past two weeks led the Celtics to send him home before last night’s game.
West, who said it felt as if he had a pinched nerve in his lower back, missed practice two days before the preseason opener against the 76ers in New Hampshire last Wednesday. He also had to leave the game against the Nets last Thursday when spasms flared up at halftime.
West was one of several players Rivers decided to rest Tuesday night against the Sixers in Philadelphia.
“We sent him home just to get checked and get his back ready,’’ said Rivers. “Hopefully he’ll play in either Hartford [Saturday] or one of the other games.’’
Injuries plagued the Celtics throughout a turbulent regular season last year, and Rivers is bracing himself for more of the same. Along with West, Shaquille O’Neal (hip) and Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) have dealt with issues.
Jermaine O’Neal missed the first two preseason games. Shaquille O’Neal sat for the second straight time last night. The two big men were brought in, of course, to fill in for Perkins, who will be out at least until February recovering from ACL surgery.
And Glen Davis’s knees were bothering him last night.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.