OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The NBA rescinded Russell Westbrook’s 16th technical foul, allowing the star guard to play in the Thunder’s critical game against Portland on Monday night.
The decision means the NBA’s leading scorer avoids what would have been an automatic suspension because he had reached the league limit of technical fouls.
The league did not elaborate on its ruling in an email, but NBA President of Operations Rod Thorn later outlined the reasoning.
“Our feeling after looking at it and then talking with the referees was that for a 16th technical, this wasn’t one that we felt was justified,” Thorn said in New York after a news conference in which the league announced a partnership with Pepsi.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks had said Sunday he was “pretty confident” Westbrook would be able to play against the Trail Blazers.
The technical came with 5:57 left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 116-104 loss to Indiana.
“I ain’t got no view on it,” Westbrook said after his career-high 54-point performance. “He called it, and we’ll move on from it.”
Thorn said it was the 36th technical foul the league has rescinded this season. The league reviews all of them and sometimes the referee who called one even asks for the league to rescind it after having second thoughts. Thorn said he spoke with Ed Malloy, the official who called Westbrook’s, but didn’t specify the nature of the conversation.
“Our feeling in looking at it was that it did not warrant a technical foul,” Thorn said.
The Thunder are tied with New Orleans for eighth place in the Western Conference, with the Pelicans holding the tiebreaker. Both teams have two games left. Losing Westbrook would have been critical for the Thunder, who already are without reigning MVP Kevin Durant and star defensive player Serge Ibaka because of injuries.
Westbrook has carried the team since Durant was ruled out for the season with a broken bone in his right foot. The All-Star MVP averages 27.9 points a game and has 11 triple-doubles this season, the most by any player since 2007-08. He ranks fourth in the league in assists (8.6 per game) and second in steals (2.1). He was the Western Conference Player of the Month in February and March.
He also is tied with Phoenix’s Markieff Morris for the league lead with 15 technicals.
“Russell leaves everything on the floor,” Brooks said. “He’s not a perfect player, nor is any player in this league. But he plays with perfect energy every night, so that’s what we look at.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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