Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, 76ers’ Montrezl Harrell involved in post-game altercation

PHILADELPHIA – Stolen basketballs. Crashing ladders. Minor refusals and threats of violence.

This was the scene that dominated Friday night at Wells Fargo Center, unfolding after the 76ers defeated the Bucks 110-102.

Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to shoot extra foul shots after a terrible game he had on the line. Montrezl Harrell, the Sixers’ backup center, and a coaching staff member, Jason Love, returned to the field, and Harrell took the ball from Giannis and refused to return it.

Harrell stood in the corner shaking his head, holding the ball as Antetokounmpo begged him.

“This isn’t f—— Milwaukee,” Harrell barked at witness Antetokounmpo The athletic. “Get that s – out of there.”

As if a bench player taking the ball from a two-time MVP after a game and yelling at him wasn’t strange enough, the situation got even more bizarre. Standing between Giannis and Harrell, Love told Antetokounmpo that he could not have a ball to shoot and was not allowed to shoot on the ground after the match.

So Antetokounmpo, who shot 4-of-15 from the line during the game, for the worst shooting performance of his career, left the court and returned with two basketballs.

It wasn’t until he returned that a Wells Fargo Center employee pushed a large A-frame ladder in front of the hoop where Giannis was shooting. Antetokounmpo asked the man to move the ladder so he could finish his shooting, and twice the man said no.

Now angry at the surprising circumstances he was facing, Giannis tried to push the ladder aside, but ended up knocking it over. The arena employee scattered as the ladder crashed into the track.

A video of the ladder incident was posted to Twitter by a Philadelphia fan at the arena.

“I never try to disrespect anyone in any way,” Antetokounmpo said an hour after the incident. “I feel like today was just an unfortunate event that happened. I think people didn’t respect the fact that sometimes players want a little extra work. I think it’s unprofessional to kick someone off the field or get the ball or whatever. Or put the ladder in front of someone while he’s trying to do his job. We are paid to do this. They didn’t just pick us. We are paid.”

There is more. Antetokounmpo, now visibly frustrated, continued his work on one side of the floor while Harrell was firing on the other.

“Yes, I got the ball, get out of here,” Harrell said, as Giannis shouted from his side, “I’m doing my job.”

After Antetokounmpo left the field for good, his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, walked to centercourt to talk to Harrell. The Sixers’ reserve center threatened Thanasis, saying on several occasions, “I’ll hit you” and “you better send that one back to the locker room.” Thanasis walked away without incident.

The Sixers declined to comment, but a source said arena workers immediately remove video equipment from the top of both boards after each game. Philadelphia will host Minnesota at Wells Fargo on Saturday. Harrell later posted this tweet.

It seemed Harrell’s problem was that an opponent, in this case Giannis, shouldn’t be trying to get extra shots after a match as the away team. But there’s no rule, written or unwritten, that prevents this, and players on either team who are either struggling to shoot, or haven’t been able to play much, sometimes return to the floor after the game for some extra work.

Giannis was still agitated when he returned to the locker room as he related the incident to his teammates, who shook their heads in disbelief. The atmosphere inside was tense and quiet, except for Giannis’s voice explaining and explaining again what had happened.

Then someone repeatedly turned off the lights in the room as players tried to get dressed, which upset them even more.

It turned out that the culprit was Liam Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ 2-year-old son.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds. He’s actually in the middle of the worst two-game spell of his career on the foul line. In Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, Giannis shot 4-of-11.

“It’s just funny to me because I have a basketball court near my house and my kids are always going to shoot, and when it gets to 9 p.m. I’m going to take the ball out of their hands,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like we’re more mature than that. We are professional athletes trying to do our job. You can go ask (Harrell). I offered him to shoot, let’s shoot together. Meanwhile, I do not understand this, because there is a basket right behind me. Behind me was another basket. And he chose to come get my ball, have his coach come in front of me and kind of bully me off the court and go to the other basket.

“I’m not going to try to fight anyone. I have kids now, I need to save my money. But if you see that as disrespect, that’s on you.”

Antetokounmpo shoots a career-worst .587 from the foul line this season, but going 8-of-26 in a two-game span can certainly skew the numbers this early in the schedule. In the two games before these last two foul shots, he was 11-of-18 and 7-of-8 on free throws.

“I just don’t make them, it’s as simple as that,” Giannis said. “I don’t think there’s no problem. The ball doesn’t go in.”

The athletics staff writer Eric Nehm contributed to this story.

(Photo: Eric Hartline/USA Today)

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