OKLAHOMA CITY — As the Clippers left the court Dec. 5 at Memphis’ FedEx Forum, something said to Montrezl Harrell by a fan near the tunnel to the locker room caught the forward’s attention and sent him climbing the steps of a nearby platform.
At the top, Harrell was a few feet from the fan and was heard saying “watch your mouth,” according to video of the incident distributed on social media. The fan had referenced a college rivalry between Memphis and Louisville and his remarks were termed “non-threatening,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly; Harrell played for Louisville and has declined interviews since the incident. The fan became the first to be ejected this season from FedEx Forum under the NBA’s fan code of conduct, according to the person.
The moment was the third notable exchange between a Clippers player and an opposing fan this season, and Saturday’s road game against Oklahoma City had the potential for a fourth.
It marked the return of Clippers guard Patrick Beverley to a city that has loathed him since an on-court run-in with Westbrook during a 2013 playoff matchup. On Oct. 30, the two became entangled again at Chesapeake Energy Arena when Beverley dove for a loose ball and connected with Westbrook’s knee. The two eventually had to be separated. Fans lobbed jeers at Beverley and one, sitting in the second row near the Clippers’ bench, persistently brought up the 2013 playoffs incident to the point that Beverley told the fan to “let it go.”
The Thunder and NBA declined comment when asked whether additional security measures were in place Saturday and the Clippers declined comment when asked if any had been requested. But the fan in question was no longer sitting in the same seat and a uniformed security officer stayed behind the Clippers’ bench the entire game. No such officer sat behind the Thunder bench.
Beverley was booed upon entering the game with three minutes remaining in the first quarter and later in the first half, one fan yelled at coach Doc Rivers that Beverley “is a marked man, you know that.” Otherwise, tempers of both players and fans stayed in check.
Fans arriving at Chesapeake Energy Arena found blue cards waiting on seats outlining the consequences of violating the NBA’s fan code of conduct, which was introduced in 2005. The cards were introduced league-wide last season.
Austin Rivers on way back West?
Five months after the Clippers traded guard Austin Rivers to Washington, the son of the Clippers’ coach is on the verge of returning to the Pacific Division as part of a reported trade between Washington and Phoenix.
The deal reportedly also includes Kelly Oubre joining Rivers in Phoenix and Trevor Ariza landing in Washington.
The trade came hours after an initial deal between Phoenix, Washington and Memphis fell apart late Friday over confusion regarding whether the Grizzlies were sending Dillon Brooks or MarShon Brooks to Phoenix. Rivers was said to be included in that trade, as well, only to not know whether he was staying or going for the next several hours.
Doc Rivers wouldn’t comment specifically on the trade, because it won’t be official until Monday, but he acknowledged the limbo players are put in when trades are rumored or fall apart.
“That’s tough for all of them,” he said. “But it’s the NBA.”
Harrell’s slump no concern to coach
Before tip-off Saturday, Rivers called himself “not that concerned” by Harrell's recent slump.
Averaging a career-high 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds a game this season, Harrell had averaged 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in his last six games before Saturday. He responded with his best first half since Dec. 2, scoring seven points in his first eight minutes against the Thunder. He finished with 21 points and six rebounds.