Things went from bad to worse to just plain ugly for Russell Westbrook during the Washington Wizards’ first-round game Wednesday in Philadelphia.
Westbrook and the Wizards were losing big to the Philadelphia 76ers early in the fourth quarter when Westbrook twisted his right ankle badly enough that he had to leave the game. Then as he was being helped to the locker room, Westbrook appeared to have popcorn dumped on him from the stands above.
An irate Westbrook had to be restrained by Wizards team personnel and arena security. In video of the incident, Westbrook appears to point at someone in the stands above the tunnel. As the camera shot panned out, other fans can also be seen pointing at an alleged perpetrator. ESPN tweeted that a fan was ejected from the game.
“To be completely honest man, this (expletive) is getting out of hand, especially for me,” Westbrook said afterwards. “The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the (expletive) they want to do, it’s just out of pocket.
“I’m all for the fans enjoying the game and having fun. It’s part of sports, I get it, but there are certain things that cross the line and in any other setting, I know for a fact that a guy wouldn’t come up to me on the street and pour popcorn on my head, because you know what would happen. … In these arenas, you gotta start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center, issued a statement later Wednesday and said the incident “has no place in our arena.”
“This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it at Wells Fargo Center,” the statement said. “We’re proud to have the most passionate fans in the country and the best home-court and home-ice advantage around, but this type of behavior has no place in our arena.”
Other players were quick to condemn the incident. Teammate Bradley Beal called it “disgusting.” Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted, “By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse! Cause if the (shoe) was on the other (foot).”
The Wizards were trailing 98-81 just over a minute into the fourth quarter when Westbrook was bringing the ball up the right side of the floor. He appeared to step on the foot of Sixers defender Furkan Korkmaz, twisting his right ankle. Westbrook fell to the floor on the baseline near the Wizards bench and was quickly surrounded by trainers and teammates.
Philadelphia rolled to a 120-95 victory to take a 2-0 series lead. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons each had 22 points, and Tobias Harris added 19 for the Sixers. Beal led the Wizards with 33 points. Westbrook had 10 points and 11 assists in 29 minutes before leaving the game.
As for his injured ankle, Westbrook said he will receive treatment before Game 3 on Saturday in Washington.
“We’ll see,” Westbrook said. “Hurt it twice in a short amount of time. We’ll see what happens.”
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.