Up until last night, I counted myself among Patrick Beverley’s staunchest defenders. The young Houston Rockets guard is one of the NBA’s toughest defensive players, and I could look past his occasional questionable play by asking myself: “Would I want him on my team?” The answer was always yes, because his level of on-ball harassment is unparalleled and overwhelmingly helpful, but Beverley has escalated his provocative irritation to a new level that I can no longer respect.
Many of you will remember that it was Beverley who sidelined Russell Westbrook in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs. In an attempt to steal the ball, Beverley sideswiped Westbrook’s right knee, tearing the meniscus. It was an accident then and it’s still an accident looking back now, but Beverley’s repeat offense last night can only be called a blatant attempt to re-injure Westbrook. After a timeout was called and the whistle was blown, Beverley hooked Westbrook’s right heel and pulled (see below):
I do not care if Beverley was trying to play a head game, trying to “steal the ball,” or trying to make a point; his behavior was disrespectful, unacceptable, and, above-all, dangerous. Patrick Beverley is a dirty player. It is irrefutable. The incident came just one game after Beverley and Portland’s own Damian Lillard had some beef in the media, revolving around Beverley’s style of play:
“I don’t get caught up in that, man, but you got somebody out there that wants to try to be bumping and doing little slick stuff, you know what I mean? I’m not going to buy into it, but I’m also not going to just let it fly. I’m going to say something. I mean, that’s what he does. I don’t really care for that, but I’m not going to let somebody be all in my chest, doing all this extra stuff that’s not basketball.”
“What he [Lillard] was saying yesterday really bothered me, because, I’ll tell you against all the other top point guards, all the other all-star point guards, it was nothing but praise. Patrick pushes me, he plays hard, he forces me to better my game, Patrick does this. However; he whines and says that I’m pushing him and all that, but I’m not a fan of excuses, I’m a fan of just go-and-do-it, and that’s what I go and do. I play my basketball game and nothing is going to change.”
Calvin Murphy (Former Houston Rocket and NBA Hall-of-Famer)
“Shame on you, Mr. Lillard! You just lost some cool points with me. Here you are about to become a superstar and you don’t want anybody touching you? You are NOT that good, you are NOT a Michael Jordan. Let me take that back, Michael Jordan didn’t have the kind of attitude you have about a man making a living against you. Yes, he got underneath your skin, yes next time you play he’s going to get under your skin; that’s his job. Do NOT try to make Patrick Beverley a dirty player. He’s an up-and-coming defensive super star in this game. You better learn to play basketball the way basketball is designed to be played, not allow yourself to be untouchable. Shame on you!”
Shame on Lillard? Shame on you, Mr. Murphy. No amount of homerism can make Beverley’s misconduct okay. Playing like a punk may regrettably be part of the game, but playing like a hitman is inexcusable. Will you defend Beverley’s actions now? He may have escaped with just a technical foul in OKC, but he was fortunate to escape with all his teeth. My bias acknowledged, Lillard should be commended for speaking about his frustration in earnest, and not escalating Beverley’s instigation on the floor.
In an interview with Sports Talk 790 AM in Houston, Beverley added:
“Damian Lillard whines. I’m not a big fan of that. I don’t go out there and try to start fights with anybody. I go out there and play my game. That’s what I do. I don’t go out there and try to hack people. I don’t go out there and do that. Prior to this game he was shooting 29 percent against me. That’s a credit to our team defense and what we’re doing. We don’t go out there and try to hurt people, we don’t go out there and try to hack people. We go out there and be aggressive on defense and that’s what gets us stops.”
The sentiment is admirable, but he proved his own words hollow shortly after. I don’t think Westbrook would agree with Beverley’s statement, nor have I heard any of the “other all-star point guards” showering Beverley with praise. Beverley plays with intent to harm, or at the very least, a disregard for player safety. We have video evidence and multiple player testimonials (Westbrook’s reaction included) that pin him as a problem in this league. He has crossed the line.