Tempers flared late in the third quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 127-120 over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center on Friday night. Austin Rivers missed an open corner three and says he heard Mo Bamba use disrespectful language from behind him on the Orlando bench. Things escalated when Bamba entered the court and engaged in a physical altercation with Rivers.
“I had got a good three, missed that, and I just heard language…on their bench, but it was just about one dude,” said Rivers, referring to Bamba. “He had said something the play before as well. I’m not really gonna get into what he said, I’m not gonna snitch on the dude or whatever, but I just didn’t like the way he was talking to me.”
Rivers says he had no preexisting issue with Bamba.
I don’t even know that dude, I don’t know anything about him. Obviously, I just know he’s a player for the Magic. And he proceeded to talk, so that next possession, when I went down there, I just said, pretty much, ‘Just keep it respectful, bro.’
Rivers says it wasn’t a tough-guy act, and that he’s embarrased by his actions.
I’m not trying to portray myself as some wannabe tough guy, that’s not even my MO. But for anybody who knows me, I’m not gonna let somebody disrespect me or talk crazy.
I just feel bad that I got thrown out of a game, and I felt I let my team down. And in the process, two other guys, important players for our team, got thrown out as well. Which makes me feel really bad. And I only got to play ten minutes tonight, my night was cut short because of that.
He was mostly upset that Jalen Suggs, who played locally at Minnehaha Academy, grabbed him by the neck during the altercation.
[Bamba] threw a punch, it missed, and then somebody grabbed me from — Suggs, I think, grabbed me by my neck. That’s what bothered me the most, that’s the only thing that’s kind hurting right now is somebody came and grabbed me by my neck. That’s a big no, no. And then I was on the ground for whatever time. I don’t know, it was chaos. I don’t really have too much to say.
Rivers summarized the incident in a post after the game.
The officials immediately ejected Rivers and Bamba. They later ejected Taurean Prince, Jaden McDaniels, and Suggs for their role in the altercation, which irked Chris Finch.
I actually missed the initial incident, that caused it all. I was sorting through the wreckage, you know. Their guy came off the bench and threw a punch. Pretty egregious. Then it’s a melee, and somehow our guys get punished a lot worse. One guy got sent for not being a peacekeeper. I just looked at the film, and I didn’t see any any difference between what their guys were doing and what our guys were doing.
Finch said that he’s not upset at Rivers, who’s his oldest player and a team leader.
I’m not making any judgement on Austin and what he did. I have no idea what started it. Or what happened. They had a guy come off the bench and throw a punch, which is one of the most egregious things you can do in the league right now. In these situation. No, I make no judgement on Austin.
The altercation spilled over into the hallway after Rivers and Bamba had been ejected.
I don’t know, man. He tried to run up on me or whatever. Ain’t nobody worried about him, man. I’m gonna keep it 100 with you. He let a 5-foot-8 guy push him off and take him back to the locker room. I don’t know how serious his threats were. I think he’s probably angry and mad in the moment as well. I’m sure in an hour or two he will probably look back and be embarrassed by this as much as I will be.
Guys are heated. He’s going to stick up for himself, I’m going to stick up for myself. But I never want to fight nobody. That’s never the answer. I always do that in self defense. But when someone like that, 7-foot, he stands up in front of me and comes at me with that aggression, at that point I gotta protect myself. I went in there one-on-five. I didn’t have no help until TP and them helped me out.
Suggs and Bamba declined comment. Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said he didn’t see the incident but will address it with Bamba and Suggs.
I didn’t see anything after the fact. As soon as I turned, the ball was going the other way. I turned and looked back and then it was just a lot of guys trying to pull guys away from each other and trying to keep our guys on the bench. I’ll have to go back and look to see exactly what happened, but I wasn’t aware of it at that moment because I was looking, the ball was going the other direction.
Rivers says he has no lingering hard feelings. He lives in Orlando and roots for the Magic when they are not playing the Wolves.
I’m not even mad at Mo Bamba, to be honest with you. Stuff happens, bro. He a man, I’m a man. Emotions get high. I wish him nothing but the best of luck. I’m not some guy you’re just going to sit here and talk crazy. You’ve seen the video before of him saying something and see Fultz’s reaction. Go watch that video. That was brewing before. I never said nothing to him. He was talking crazy for four plays, three plays, just saying stuff.
So I’m just like, ‘Yo what are you doing?’ I went up to him and I pressed him and at that point, it can go one of two ways. I didn’t think we were going to get in a fight. But when you stand up that fast and put your hands up. He threw a punch and missed, thankfully. At that point I got to protect myself. Ain’t no one worried about him.
Rivers made it clear that this was not a tough-guy act, and that he has no lingering ill will toward Bamba. But the league will likely suspend him and everyone involved. That’s unfortunate for the Wolves, who could use his veteran leadership and Prince and McDaniels’ 3-and-D play as they navigate a clustered Western Conference.