OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State backup big man Anderson Varejao insists he didn’t deliberately trip Trail Blazers guard Gerald Henderson in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal playoff series.
Yet after watching the replay, he understands it sure looked like he did it on purpose — which is what Henderson thought. Varejao said it looked worse than it was.
“When I looked at the play, I was like, `Oh, it looked like I was trying to do that,”‘ he said. “How can I try to do something like that? I’m going down and my foot got stuck. That’s all.”
Portland coach Terry Stotts on Monday called it a “dirty play.” Then Tuesday, the NBA ruled it a Flagrant 1 foul on Varejao.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series was set for Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, and both players involved seemed to be ready to move forward.
The 33-year-old Varejao, a 12th-year NBA veteran from Brazil, said in response to Stotts that he isn’t a dirty player.
“It’s a playoff game, we all know it’s going to be like that. I don’t know exactly what he’s talking about. I just thought it was a physical play,” Varejao said after the morning shootaround. “Got hit in my back, I was going down, my feet got stuck somewhere and all of a sudden, someone else fell. I’m sorry that that happened. Do you think I’m looking for guys to take them out? No. I know how it is to be hurt. I’ve been hurt enough.
“I would never try to hurt anybody, I would never do that.”
He and Henderson were ejected late in the third quarter of Sunday’s game after receiving their second technical fouls. Both were hit with a technical at the 3:29 mark of the third when Varejao tripped Henderson after they collided. Henderson jumped up, pointing a finger at his opponent’s face. They kept jawing a few minutes later and were tossed with 15.1 seconds left in the period.
Stotts was still steamed about it a day later.
“Varejao made a dirty play. It was a leg-whip and I thought it was a dangerous play,” he said. “I thought Gerald’s reaction to being tripped like that was appropriate. Otherwise, no one would have seen it. It was unfortunate that he got tossed on the second, but you have to defend yourself — especially when somebody makes a dirty play.”
Henderson said after the game that he believed Varejao thought the Blazers guard ran into him on purpose.
“I hit him. I bumped him good. But I didn’t, I wasn’t trying to hit him,” Henderson said, calling it “a little excessive” to have Varejao go at his legs.
Varejao said Tuesday he was initially surprised Henderson came at him.
“But looking at the play, he had the right to do it. I understand why he came back at me the way he did, which is OK, guys. It’s a playoff game,” Varejao said. “It’s going to be physical. It’s fun when it gets like that.”