For weeks, going back to at least March, Sixers coach Doc Rivers has delivered the same message to reserve center Dwight Howard: Cool it with the technicals, especially the dumb ones. Rivers calls those, “verbal techs,” the ones that are not the result of hard physical play but, rather, the result of Howard running his mouth to the refs too much.
When he got a technical foul for an actual tussle on Thursday night against the Heat, then, Howard was in a bad position. He’d already racked up 15 techs, and was given a one-game league suspension for picking up No. 16. League rules say that the 16th technical foul yields a suspension.
Rivers said Howard did not do anything to warrant the technical foul for his dust-up with Heat veteran Udonis Haslem but conceded it’s difficult to have much sympathy for Howard.
“I think we had that talk, probably three months ago,” Rivers said before the Sixers tipped off on Friday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But listen, it doesn’t stop. Some of them are unavoidable, and I really didn’t think Dwight deserved the tech but he is like the kid that keeps being late for class and then finally he actually has a real reason but nobody believes it, so there is not a lot you could have done about it.”
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Howard’s Technical Appeared Justified
The play that led up to Howard’s technical foul will go down as one of the most memorable of the season in the NBA, if only because of the circumstances. Heat dedicated veteran benchwarmer Udonis Haslem, at 40 years old, made his season debut in the game and was pulled to the ground by Howard while attempting a rebound.
Haslem patiently got up and gradually got more and more into Howard’s face at the other end of the floor, finally pointing and appearing to lightly smack Howard on the face. Haslem, playing just two minutes, was ejected and Howard giving a technical despite not doing much besides talking back to Haslem.
Rivers defended Howard on that ground. But he did not defend the fact that Howard put himself in a difficult position.
“They give you a number on purpose,” he said, “and so when you get to that number and you are putting whether you are going to play or not in someone else’s hands, it usually doesn’t go your way. I would say that is the case here.”
Dwight Howard Did Cut Back on Tech Frequency
Give Howard some credit—he did try to limit his technicals and avoid the suspension down the stretch of the season.
Back in late March, after a disastrous two-game stint in Los Angeles in which Howard was ejected from back-to-back games against the Lakers and Clippers, he vowed to clean up his technical act.
“I can’t get no more techs,” Howard said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You know, it might seem like I’m being selfish or not thinking about the team. But my first thought, my second thought, my third thought is about this team. I want us to win. … I will be better.”
The Sixers were 46 games into the season at that point, and Howard already had 13 technical fouls. They played 24 games since, and Howard received just three techs over that stretch. He got tech No. 15 on April 24 and played 10 games before running into Haslem and getting his 16th.
Howard, who has averaged 7.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 17.3 minutes this season, leads the NBA in technical fouls and is the only player to receive a T suspension this year. Dallas’ Luka Doncic has 15 technicals, one shy of a suspension.