For the second night in a row, a potentially violent incident made headlines in the basketball world. On Tuesday, this came courtesy of the game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic. While the Magic came out on top with a surprising 108-102 win, they did so after one of their veterans got ejected.
Less than halfway through the frame, Arron Afflalo threw a massive haymaker after some physical play with Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica. It ended up missing, and in response, Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock. While some might that that it looked like Bjelica wanted Afflalo to go to sleep, we learned after the game that this was not his intention.
Bjelica met with reporters and discussed the incident, saying that it escalated as the two players were going at it during the game. The headlock, he claims, was done to calm Afflalo down and deescalate the situation.
“He took a swing at me,” the Timberwolves’ forward said. “I was just trying to protect myself, first of all, and to help him, to calm him down, because he was wild. I don’t know what’s wrong with that guy but at that point, if you attack me like that, I just have to protect myself.“
Bjelica also apologized to his teammates and coaches for getting tossed, and said that he’s a calm guy who will “never fight during a game.”
It would have been really easy in the heat of the moment for Bjelica to start throwing hands with Afflalo, so assuming he’s telling the truth, he deserves some kudos for trying to keep things mellow. There are probably better ways to do that by locking someone in a headlock, but hey, I suppose it’s better than trying to drop someone by throwing a retaliatory punch.