Russell Westbrook hit referee Tre Maddox in the face with a basketball but maintains that it was an accident. He was shocked when he got hit with a technical foul, his 10th of the season, it would be 12th but two were rescinded.
The incident happened during the first quarter of the Charlotte Hornets 123-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC called a timeout; Westbrook threw the ball towards Maddox. He turned his head as Westbrook let go of the ball and it hit him on the side of his face.
Westbrook insists it was an accident, saying he called Maddox to throw the ball to him but he looked away and it hit him in the head.
“I called his name. He turned right at me and then looked away. I don’t know,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know what to tell you, brother. I really don’t. I’m not the type of guy … I would never, ever disrespect the game like that and throw the ball at the referee. I’ve never done it before. That’s just not even heard of in the game before. To get a tech, it’s crazy to me. But you take the good with the bad.”
It was believed that Westbrook threw it at the official on purpose. The throw came after Westbrook didn’t get a call on consecutive drives to the basket. He has expressed frustration with not getting foul calls this season, recently saying he is not officiated like other players.
“Instead of Russell giving the ball to the nearest official, he throws it in the area where Tre is and Tre’s not looking, and the ball hits him in the face,” head official Sean Corbin told a pool reporter after the game (via ESPN). “So that’s a technical foul.”
Westbrook made it clear to officials that it was accidental. In the video you can see on his face that he made a mistake as he threw his hands up when he realized it hit Maddox. He later apologized to the ref.