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Do you ever wonder what they’re saying out there on the floor, like late Saturday night in the Bulls crushing 102-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers?
When Dwyane Wade, who was brilliant again with 28 points and five of nine threes, cornered lead referee Marc Davis after Taj Gibson was called for a technical foul with 8.9 seconds left and then Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was ejected for the first time as Bulls coach?
When Chris Paul upon Gibson’s ejection cornered Davis, also?
“I didn’t say anything,” a quizzical Gibson said well after the game. “I said, ‘Good game, Marc.’ Even Chris Paul was trying to take up for me. He was saying to Marc, ‘Man, you can’t be giving guys techs like that for nothing; that’s $2,500, giving guys techs.’ Then Fred said, ‘What are you doing?’ That’s all. And he’s out. Intense game. But I really didn’t say anything vulgar or anything; just ‘Good game, Marc.’”
The Bulls played a very good game against a very good Clippers team, a game that could easily have been the Bulls’ after they led by 19 points in the first half and five with about eight minutes left. The crucial officials’ call came with 20.8 seconds left, what seemed like a perfect defensive stop by Jimmy Butler on Blake Griffin with the Clippers leading 97-95.
Bulls players and staff were upset, but hardly out of control as after a Wade three missed with 13.9 seconds left, Davis waded toward the Bulls bench and began calling technicals, the first on the befuddled Gibson and then one on Hoiberg and an ejection.
“I thought Jimmy made a hell of a play,” said Hoiberg. “Taj got a technical, I got a technical. I got thrown out and I’ll leave it at that.”
Wade has been the voice of reason and confidence for the Bulls this season, and he calmly explained to Davis, who is from Chicago, that perhaps he overreacted to the moment. Wade did so evenly and professionally, with respect for the official and his role, but also with support for his team.
It was yet another example of the intelligence and excellence Wade brings to the game that even Clippers coach Doc Rivers spoke about before he game.
Here’s the conversation Wade related with Davis:
“He’s a veteran guy. I was just trying to explain to Marc the situation. It’s a very emotional game. You have two teams giving everything and especially us at that moment that was a tough call and at that moment Marc has to be the bigger person and not walk to the technical fouls; he has to walk a way. And I was explaining as someone who has been in this league for a long time. You have to give us the emotion, you have to give us that; that’s all I was doing. I had a good, respectful conversation at that moment, but the damage was done for sure by then. Just trying to get our point across; we don’t have bad guys. Fred ain’t yelling at nobody; he wasn’t yelling. I was right there and barely heard him. It’s something Marc has to walk away from.”
It was a loss for the Bulls, but a win in the sense of having someone like Wade not only take responsibility for the team, but do it with such eloquence, grace and decorum, taking the lead but not embarrassing anyone. It’s the sort of model of restraint and conviction that speaks to the best in our society.
“Everyone knows Dwyane has been a great player, but he’s been a pro,” Rivers said before the game. “He’s been as good of a pro as we’ve had in our league as far as professionalism, preparation, his conduct on the floor, everything. Yet he is still the most competitive guy you can ever face. He’s almost proven you can be a gentlemen and a killer at the same time. I think that’s a great example for anyone.
“Dwyane came into the league and he beat you with raw athleticism, you couldn’t do anything about it,” recalled Rivers, a fellow Marquette player. “He looked at you and said ,’I’m a better athlete.’ Now he looks at you and says, ‘You may be a better athlete, but I’m smarter, my footwork is better, my fundamentals are better and I’m still not a bad athlete.’ It’s amazing how smart he is and he’s beating people with his brain now. It’s not something you see very often, I can tell you that. It’s pretty impressive to watch.”