SACRAMENTO -- The streak is over. After amassing a stunning 29 technical fouls before the All-Star break, the Sacramento Kings made it 23 games without one heading into Tuesday’s contest with the Phoenix Suns.
Then things got messy.
Rookie big man Georgios Papagiannis got tangled up with Dragan Bender of the Phoenix Suns and the 7-footer didn’t back down. In fact, he was ready to take on the entire Suns team as they walked into his personal space.
“It happened, I was trying just to get my hand out of [the grasp] of Dragan and he just turned around, he came to my face,” Papagiannis said. “I had to protect, first myself, and then I saw three players from the Phoenix Suns come to me - I’m not going to back down. If you want to have a fight, we going to have a fight.”
Before the Kings could even respond, the 19-year-old giant was nose to nose with not only Bender, but Sacramento native Marquese Chriss as well. The end result was double techs for each Papagiannis and Bender and a separate technical for Chriss.
The Kings players have seen this side of Papagiannis before. Not one of them in the locker room was shocked.
“I’m not surprised actually, honestly, Pop’s crazy,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “You’ll see. Pop’s mean, yo. You’all see.”
Ty Lawson, who went off for his first career triple-double in the game had a similar thought on the rookie from Greece.
“He’s a little hot head, especially when someone’s bumping him and stuff like that,” Lawson said. “He’s not going to let anyone punk him, ever. Probably of anyone on the team, he would be the first one [to get a technical], I would have put my money on that.”
“It’s a good thing,” Lawson added. “You don’t want to be punked by anybody and stuff like that. You get that reputation in the league and it sticks with you. I’m glad he actually did that.”
Garrett Temple rushed in to play peace maker and had a front row view of the near scuffle. It wasn’t the fact that Papagiannis was in the middle of the situation that surprised him, it was the clarity of the language from the center.
“I had no notion that Papa was soft by any means, but it was good to him - he was speaking perfect english too,” Garrett Temple said. “I was there right under him hearing exactly what he was saying. You learn those words first I guess in the other language.”
No punches were thrown. No one was ejected. Just a good old fashion NBA standoff, complete with giant men going chest to chest with very little chance of actual punches being thrown.
Papagiannis finished the night with 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action. He’s shown more and more of his personality in each of his 15 appearances since the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans and freed up time for him in the post. On Tuesday night at Golden 1 Center, he gave the fans a glimpse into what the Kings have seen behind the scenes.
“They know really what I am,” Papagiannis explained of his teammates. “I may be quiet sometimes, but you know, they say all the quiet persons, they just have a fire inside them.”