NBA suspends Raptors’ Johnson for ball tussle with ref, mouthguard toss
By Ben Golliver
The NBA announced Tuesday that Raptors forward Amir Johnson has been suspended one game without pay after he was ejected from a Monday night loss to the Blazers in Portland after tussling with referee David Jones over control of the basketball and for “throwing his mouthpiece and hitting a referee” with it on his way off the court.
Johnson apologized for his actions following the game and called the incident between the two men “childish.”
“I think [it was childish] between both of us,” Johnson said. “We were both wrestling with the ball. That was kind of childish. We both either could’ve let it go or anything. That part was childish. Plus, on my part for reacting that way.”
With the Blazers leading 58-48 with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter, Johnson attempted to grip the basketball before lining up for a second free-throw attempt by Blazers center J.J. Hickson. Jones let Johnson touch the ball but then held his own grip, preparing to return it to Hickson for his try. Johnson continued to grab the ball and started to tussle for it once Jones was ready to move on.
“It was something that didn’t need to happen,” Johnson said. “I lost my cool. I apologize on that part. I’ve never been kicked out of a game before or been T’d up like that.”
Jones hit Johnson with a technical foul and an immediate ejection for holding the ball, causing Johnson to react angrily. Known as the opposite of a hot head, Johnson said he wasn’t upset about earlier fouls called against him and that there were no words exchanged between him and Jones that precipitated the argument.
“He turned his back, I really wanted to know what happened,” Johnson explained. “Nothing was said. I lost my cool right there. I never had any problems all the eight years I’ve been in the league. I never argued with a ref or did anything wrong. From there, I just lost my cool.”
Johnson had to be escorted off the court as he continued to dispute the series of events.
“It’s usually a situation where officials let you touch the ball, feel the ball,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “You just come into the game, get a little sweat on your hands, feel the ball a little bit. I don’t know what happened between David and Amir, but it escalated. I told Amir you can’t let it escalate, and I told David you can’t let it escalate. I wasn’t there. Amir said one thing, David said another, and I’m sure they’ll figure out something. That’s totally of character for Amir. He usually doesn’t get that excited or upset.”
Kings guard Aaron Brooks was recently fined $25,000 for tossing his mouthpiece into the stands. However, Johnson’s actions likely earned a harsher penalty because the mouthguard was sent sailing at the official. However, his lack of prior incidents and his apology probably helped keep this from being a multi-game suspension.
“I’m going to accept the consequences,” Johnson said. “Whatever happens, happens. I apologize if I hurt anybody or I did anything wrong. It is what it is.”
The Blazers went on to defeat the Raptors 92-74. Toronto dropped to 4-18.
Johnson, 25, is on the books for $6.1 million this season. One game check is equivalent to roughly $73,000.