Brad Stevens wasn’t expecting Kemba Walker to play his full allotment of minutes in the star point guard’s return to action after missing three consecutive games due to the flu.
But Walker’s services were cut even shorter than what was probably expected, and it wasn’t an injury or illness that forced Walker to the locker room early in Boston’s 129-114 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night.
With 5:49 remaining in the third quarter, Walker picked up two technical fouls to earn his first career ejection for vehemently arguing with referee Evan Scott about a non-call on LaMarcus Aldridge after the Spurs center knocked Walker to the floor with a forceful screen.
Kemba Walker has been ejected from game vs. Spurs pic.twitter.com/cXCXaRaiAO— Marcus Smart Day on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 9, 2020
“I thought the ref missed a call and just voiced my opinion on it and the rest is history,” Walker said. “I guess he felt I said a little bit too much. It was his choice. Obviously it’s on those guys to make a decision. And he made it.”
Walker let his frustration spew out of him on the court and used colorful language to illustrate his point. Walker said he didn’t get personal with the official, just focusing on the play that occurred. According to officiating crew chief Rodney Mott, Walker picked up both technical fouls since he “used profanity toward an official.”
POOL REPORT ON THE KEMBA WALKER EJECTION: pic.twitter.com/ymHTQJJeRw— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) January 9, 2020
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been ejected in my whole life,” Walker said. “I am a two-time sportsmanship award winner as well, so maybe I should get a little leeway. I watch a lot of basketball and I see other guys do a lot worse.
“The choice was his and he made it. He got me out of there. What can I do? Just forget about it at this point.”
Walker’s ejection came at a critical juncture, too. After trailing 65-47 at halftime, the Celtics used a 15-4 run to pull within seven midway through the third quarter and then they lost their prized guard for the rest of the game.
The C’s never got any closer as the Spurs used the technical foul shots — Stevens also got T’d up for coming to Walker’s defense — to get the lead back into double digits and the advantage never dipped below that threshold again.
“I wish I obviously didn’t get ejected because it definitely swung the game way back into their favor,” said Walker, who finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes. “We were making a run, on our way back, and after that incident it didn’t go in the right direction.”
For Walker, he learned that in a situation like the one he found himself in, a first of sorts for the ninth-year NBA veteran, his relatively new teammates will have his back, even if it’s with a light-hearted approach.
Just ask Marcus Smart, who yelled, “Free Kemba,” as Walker began his postgame press conference.
Marcus Smart in the background: "Free Kemba man" pic.twitter.com/bHZilnTlB3— Marcus Smart Day on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 9, 2020
And just like that, Walker showed a different emotion than the one he displayed on the court as he is just as known for his infectious smile as he is for his fierce competitiveness, which ended up costing him against the Spurs.