T.J. Warren on Ejection, Emotions in Heat Game

Jan. 9, 2020 - Pacers forward T.J. Warren and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Warren's ejection in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Heat after an altercation with Heat forward Jimmy Butler.

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T.J. Warren on Ejection, Emotions in Heat Game

Jan. 9, 2020 - Pacers forward T.J. Warren and head coach Nate McMillan discuss Warren's ejection in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Heat after an altercation with Heat forward Jimmy Butler.
Jan 9, 2020  |  02:14

Brogdon Returning, Warren Competing, Sumner Hoping

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

It should have been a slow news day, a light practice sandwiched between two games and cut short by the departure time of a flight to Chicago.

There was a lot going on with the Pacers on Thursday, though. Malcolm Brogdon is finally returning, T.J. Warren is still explaining, and Edmond Sumner is patiently waiting.

While the spiciest topic of conversation following the workout at St. Vincent Center was T.J. Warren's ejection from the previous night's loss to Miami and the verbal aftermath, the most relevant topic was Brogdon's return. The starting point guard, captain, and unchallenged leader of the Pacers said he expects to play Friday against the Bulls after missing seven of the past eight games and only playing eight minutes in the lone exception.

Brogdon's role as the primary cog in the on-court operation is as obvious as their record with and without him. They are 18-9 in the games he has played and 5-6 when he hasn't. His absence has been even more keenly felt during the recent struggles of his replacement, Aaron Holiday, who has performed better as an off-guard than a point guard.

Holiday excelled during a nine-game stretch leading up to New Year's Eve, averaging 16.4 points on 52 percent shooting. He has been less effective in the previous five games, averaging 8.8 points on 29 percent shooting. His assist totals have gone up, however, to 6.6 per game against only 1.4 turnovers.

Nate McMillan, obviously, will be pleased to have the point guard he describes as "the voice on the floor our guys have learned to listen to and trust." Expecting a part-time shooting guard such as Holiday to play as well as Brogdon was unreasonable.

"We're starting a second-year player; really a player who hasn't started in games at the point guard position since he's been here," McMillan said. "We know we don't have that experience, but that has to come from some other guys who have been here. You can't put all of that on our young point guard who's stepping into that position."

Brogdon nearly played Wednesday against the Heat and would have been welcomed. So would Victor Oladipo, who drove to Fort Wayne Thursday morning to practice with the Mad Ants and has marked Jan. 29 as his intended return to game action. The Pacers were, to use McMillan's word, "dominated" by the Heat in a game they trailed by 31 points in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

The outcome was overshadowed by the dust-up between Warren and Miami guard Jimmy Butler midway through the third quarter. They were each assessed a technical foul after squaring off and chatting non-amiably following Warren's benign intentional foul of Butler. Warren was ejected soon after for clapping when Butler was charged with an offensive foul. Butler got away with blowing kisses at Warren and then insulted and challenged Warren in profanity-laced postgame comments.

The normally introverted Warren didn't back down on the court against Butler and took a similarly aggressive stance after practice on Thursday. He described the event as a "heat of the moment" affair but said, "I'm never going to back down. I was raised like that, to always compete and give my all out there."

"A lot of people said they've never seen me like that," he added, "but when the game's on the line and it's intense like that it brings the best out of people. I was just amped up and excited to be out there."

Warren said he had little recall of the sequence of incidents.

"I couldn't even understand what he was saying," Warren said. "I kind of just blanked out. I don't even remember what really happened last night, that's how (emotional) I was."

McMillan has mixed feelings about Warren's involvement with Butler. He constantly communicates to the players his mantra of "the Three C's" — calm, clear, connected — but also recognizes that emotions can, and sometimes should, run high. He, after all, is the guy who once threw a ball at Dennis Rodman while playing for Seattle. But the Pacers have had a player called for a technical foul in the past three games and Justin Holiday also was ejected in the victory at Charlotte on Monday.

"We want our guys to play with emotion and go out there and compete, but you have to be able to get yourself back to calm in certain situations," McMillan said.

"It's just that time of the season. The intensity is picking up, the level of play is picking up. Guys are competing and starting to look at the standings. There's going to be a lot of emotions; there should be. But you have to also be able to...get yourself back to calm. We try to do that all the time with timeouts, settle the team down and sometimes settle (myself) down."

Butler, in comments with reporters after the game and again in an Instagram message he posted later in the evening, wasn't in a calming-down mood. He said and wrote that he was looking forward to seeing Warren again when Miami returns to The Fieldhouse on March 20.

Warren smiled when asked his reaction on Thursday.

"I look forward to any matchup, not just a game against them," he said. "I'm looking forward to (Friday). I can't wait to play basketball again. That's the kind of guy I am."

Sumner can't wait to play again, either. Hardly noticed amid the nature of the blowout loss and the Warren-Butler confrontations was the detail of Sumner playing his best game of his abbreviated season. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting and picked off a couple of steals in his 19 minutes. (He leads the Pacers in steals on a per-minute basis.)

It's easy to forget now, but Sumner has been ahead of Holiday in the rotation at various points of their careers, including the start of this season. Sumner was the first sub to enter the game in the season opener with Detroit and quickly picked off steals on consecutive possessions. He started the second and third games in place of the injured Jeremy Lamb, but was injured himself in the third game with a fractured bone in his shooting hand.

He didn't play again until Dec. 9 and was in and out of the lineup for awhile after that, but has now played in nine of the previous 10 games.

"My body is adjusting to playing again," he said.

Continuing to play Sumner will be a challenge for McMillan when Brogdon and Oladipo are both playing. Sumner is well aware of the scenario but will try to stay prepared for anything.

"We knew that going into the season," he said. "I have to stay ready when my name is called. I can help in certain situations, certain matchups, so I feel like Coach might put me out there in certain situations. I can maybe go five, 10 games without playing, but I have to be ready in that 11th game."

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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