LOS ANGELES --- Nikola Vučević apologized to his teammates and, in postgame comments to reporters, owned his second-quarter ejection during the Chicago Bulls’ Sunday matinee victory over the Lakers.
Still, the play stood out for the oddity that Vučević received his two quick technical fouls from separate officials and also because of his longstanding habit of speaking in Serbian when he uses expletives out of frustration.
“I was surprised because I don’t know how they can ‘T’ him up when he’s talking Serbian. I think he may have asked them if they want to go out to dinner (Sunday) night possibly,” coach Billy Donovan cracked. “In the moment that you’re sitting over there, it almost appeared to me that it was bang-bang technical fouls. And in talking to (official) Tony (Brothers)---and I got a lot of respect for the crew there---they felt like there was enough of a delay after the first one for him to step away. And he didn’t. I don’t have any problem with the officials in the moment.”
Veteran official Sean Corbin called Vučević for fouling LeBron James with 1 minute, 2 seconds left in the first half and promptly gave Vučević his first technical. Vučević faced the Bulls’ bench as he continued expressing frustration, but fellow veteran official Tony Brothers whistled Vučević for his second technical foul from the opposite sideline.
“It was a crazy ejection because the guy that gave him the (second) tech didn’t even call the foul on him. Tony came across the court and threw him out,” Zach LaVine said. “I wasn’t there to understand it but it’s tough to throw a guy out in the second quarter of the game. We picked him up. It’s part of basketball.”
Donovan praised Brothers for a through explanation of the ejection, saying that Brothers even checked a replay to critique the play.
Vučević looked inward.
“Obviously, it was a bad decision by me to react the way I did in a game as important as this for us. I have to be better and control my emotions more in the moment,” he said. “Agree or disagree with the call, whatever happens, it’s my mistake. I’m just glad my teammates came through and won the game for us. It makes me feel a little less bad about myself.
“Usually there is that kind of cool-off period. It is what is is. I overreacted for sure. I deserved the first one 100 percent. The second one, I should’ve done better and just shut my mouth and turned around and focused on the game. I didn’t do that. And I got what I deserved.”
The ejection came as the Lakers staged a first-half rally that trimmed a 20-point deficit to eight at halftime. Andre Drummond started the second half and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes as the Bulls’ bench played well throughout.
“I put in the work day in and day out. I come in early and stay after to keep myself prepared for moments like this,” Drummond said. “It showed.”
Drummond was part of a bench unit that outscored the Lakers’ reserves 48-41 and did so as Jimmy Kimmel, on whose late-night talk show Drummond has appeared several times, sat courtside.
“I had to put a show on for him,” Drummond said, smiling.