Trail Blazers rookie forward Caleb Swanigan was ejected from Portland’s 113-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns tonight. A scuffle with Suns center Alex Len at the 9:35 mark of the fourth quarter resulted in double technicals and ejections for both players. Here’s the video:
Swanigan and Len got into it as they both tried to box out (while Leonard makes another three). Len was holding inside position, while Swanigan tried to bully him from behind. After the play, Len pushed him away and Swanigan came back hard. Ejections for both.
Earlier today we discussed Portland’s open spot in the starting lineup at power forward. Given his strong preseason performance, confidence, and skill set, Blazers fans have been speculating about the possibility of Swanigan earning the nod. In that earlier article we discussed what opposing power forwards, many of whom are stars, might do to Swanigan if he plays with the first unit. The education of rookies can be unpleasant.
Stars aren’t the only threat to rookies feeling their way in the big leagues. They also have to worry about exposure to referees. Trail Blazers draft pick Mark Bryant started in his first-ever NBA game in 1988. He had enough talent to sustain him through fifteen years in the NBA. But he never shook the foul-prone reputation he earned with the referees as a youngster, averaging an astonishing 5.4 personal fouls per 36 minutes over his career. Swanigan’s learning curve might be smoother if he didn’t have to negotiate it while guarding Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, hearing the inevitable whistles that would accompany such a mission raining down upon his head.