On Tuesday, Chicago Bulls forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis were involved in a serious physical altercation during practice, resulting in Mirotic’s hospitalization. Shams Charania of the Vertical was one of the first to break the news.
Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic Hospitalized: Another NBA Altercation
Sources: Bulls forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic were involved in serious altercation in practice today, leaving Mirotic hospitalized and out indefinitely. Story coming.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 17, 2017
Citing league sources, ESPN reports that the players had been talking trash to one another in practice, going back and forth, before those exchanges escalated into a physical encounter. Mirotic charged at Portis twice before Portis threw a punch and connected with Mirotic’s face. Mirotic dropped to the floor and laid there for several minutes before getting up. The 6-foot-10 power forward suffered a concussion and maxillary fractures.
The Bulls told USA TODAY Sports that surgery is likely.
Bulls says surgery likely required for Mirotic after altercation with Portis. Mirotic sustained suffered a concussion & maxillary fractures.
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) October 17, 2017
Mirotic, 26, was expected to be the Bulls’ starting power forward. He signed a two-year, $27 million contract with Chicago in free agency. Portis, 22, was the Bulls’ 22nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft and also plays power forward.
The Bulls are evaluating disciplinary action for Portis. It will be interesting to see what punishment, if any, the NBA imposes for this incident.
Mirotic and Portis are not the first NBA players to come to blows (or worse) with a teammate or franchise employee. Serious physical altercations within the NBA are not as rare as one might think. Here we look back on four of the more memorable fisticuffs in NBA history.
Latrell Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo
While playing with the Golden State Warriors in 1997, guard Latrell Sprewell made headlines after choking and threatening to kill, Warriors’ head coach P.J. Carlesimo.
The assault occurred during a December 1 practice, after Carlesimo reportedly yelled at Sprewell to make crisper passes. Sprewell responded by threatened to kill Carlesimo before dragging him to the ground by his throat. Teammates broke up the scrap. Twenty minutes later, Sprewell returned to continue the assault, throwing punches at Carlesimo. Eventually, he was dragged from the court.
The Warriors voided the remaining three years and $23.7 million left on Sprewell’s contract as a result of the incident. NBA Commissioner David Stern then suspended Sprewell for 82 games before an arbitrator reduced the sentence to 68 games, costing Sprewell $6.4 million and a shoe deal with Converse.
Prior to the assault, Sprewell had been averaging 21.4 points per game during the 1997-1998 season.
Delonte West and Von Wafer
On October 29, 2010, Boston Celtics guard Delonte West exchanged punches with teammate Von Wafer in the Boston Celtics locker room. Emotions boiled over during a three-on-three game after West repeatedly fouled Wafer. Wafer left the game mid-way, and as he walked towards the locker room, West began shouting and taunting him. Later, in the locker room, West approached Wafer from behind and threw a punch. The two wrestled each other to the ground before they were separated by teammates.
The Celtics did not release West as a result of the incident, although such a response was heavily considered. He would complete his one-year contract with Boston and go on to sign a second one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum with Dallas. That season would prove the last of his turbulent 8-year NBA career.
Notably, the incident with Wafer came just over a year after West was pulled over for a traffic violation while riding a three-wheeled motorcycle and found to be carrying multiple guns. He was arrested, and after pleading guilty was sentenced to electronic monitoring, unsupervised probation, community service and psychological counseling.
Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton
On Christmas Eve 2009, Washington Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton pulled pistols on each other in the Wizards’ locker room over a gambling debt that Arenas had reportedly incurred. Although no shoot-out ensured, the incident had major implications for the Wizards’ guards.
On January 27, 2010, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas and Crittenton for the remainder of the NBA season. Neither player appealed the punishment. Both players also faced criminal gun charges, for which they received criminal probation.
Arenas returned to the Wizards for the 2010–11 season, but in December 2010 was traded to the Orlando Magic. He played a reserve role with both the Magic and the Memphis Grizzlies, starting in only 16 games total. With no signing interest shown from NBA franchises, Arenas joined the Chinese Basketball Association in November 2012. He appeared in only 14 games with the CBA and hasn’t played professionally since.
Crittenton never played in another NBA game after the incident with Arenas. He played briefly in China and with the NBA Development League, but his penchant for criminal endeavors ultimately ruined any possibility of an NBA return.
In August 2011, Crittenton was charged in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Atlanta woman. He was alleged by prosecutors to have gang ties and to have been involved with another 2011 shooting. Crittenton was also charged for his alleged role in a marijuana and cocaine drug trafficking ring. He pled guilty to manslaughter in 2015 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated in Georgia.
Blake Griffin and Matias Testi
On January 23, 2016, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin fractured his hand following an altercation with a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Matias Testi. The Clippers were in Toronto to play the Raptors at the time. Griffin reportedly punched Testi multiple times in the face, both inside and outside a restaurant where the pair were dining with Clippers’ center DeAndre Jordan and an assistant athletic trainer.
Although the cause of the altercation between Griffin and Testi has never been definitively confirmed, a number of sources reported that the pair had been arguing and Testi had been teasing Griffin that the Clippers were better off without him. Comments like that could have easily gotten under Griffin’s skin; the Clippers were 11-2 in his absence in the 4 weeks preceding the incident. Griffin had been out with a partially torn left quadricep muscle since the Clippers’ Christmas Day match up with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Griffin suffered a spiral fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand and would miss 11 games due to the injury. He also served a four-game suspension without pay. He had been averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game before the incident, and was arguably poised to have the best season of his career.
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