Nick Young throws punch, ejected

Updated: January 16, 2014, 3:21 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

PHOENIX -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young was ejected in the first half of Wednesday night's 121-114 loss to the Phoenix Suns after officials deemed he threw a punch at Goran Dragic.

Young was retaliating to a hard foul from Suns rookie center Alex Len. After an officials review, Len was assessed a flagrant foul 2 and also was ejected. After the game, however, Young was seemingly more upset with his teammates than with the Suns.

"What I'm mad about is it was 1-on-5, I felt like," Young said. "If somebody [from the Lakers] would have got in the middle, everything wouldn't have escalated that much."

[+] EnlargeNick Young and Alex Len
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesLakers guard Nick Young was ejected for retaliating after a hard foul from Suns center Alex Len.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that the Lakers, who only had nine healthy players on the roster coming into Wednesday's game, reacted appropriately to the play. "You don't fight in this league," D'Antoni said. "It wouldn't help us to lose two or three more guys. So, I hate that Nick feels that way, but I'm sure he's just in the moment, talking."

Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall put the onus on Young to show more composure.

"I understand where Nick's coming from, he did get fouled hard and it wasn't a basketball play by any means but at the same time, we got to understand our numbers [of available players on the roster] and sometimes you just got to win some and lose some," Marshall said. "I don't know if that was the smartest play at the time."

Marshall also disagreed that there were Lakers players in position to break up the altercation under the basket.

"I think Nick kind of saw what he wanted to see at the time," Marshall said. "Obviously, like I said, you got to understand we got seven guys so maybe at that point and time you just got to chill out."

Lakers assistant coach Dan D'Antoni did come to Young's side toward the end of the brief run-in. NBA rules allow coaches to leave the bench to play mediator, but players can be suspended for doing the same.

"I understand because there was a lot of guys that were swarming [Young] from that team so it looked like it was just 1-on-4, 1-on-5, I think he felt like that," said Wes Johnson. "We always have his back, but for the players that were on the bench, we couldn't do but only so much."

Lakers co-captain Pau Gasol also defended Young.

"Nick got fouled pretty hard, fell on the floor and he was upset about the foul and I think everybody would have been," Gasol said. "Unfortunately we didn't get a guy in between Nick and the three or four guys that were going at him, so I think that was the first mistake or slow reaction on our part. We should have protected Nick there because he had, like I said, a couple guys just pushing him and shoving him."

Gasol said the rule that forbids players from leaving the bench should not be so rigid.

"I wish I could have just got off the bench and just grabbed Nick," Gasol said. "I think that could be allowed. You just go off the bench and you don't try to touch anybody else but your own teammate and you just pull him aside so he doesn't get into trouble. I think that would be a good rule."

With the Lakers trailing 36-35 with 7:33 remaining in the second quarter, Young received an outlet pass on the right wing and tried to dunk over Len. Len made contact with Young's face with his right hand as he fouled Young to prevent the basket, sending the Lakers' leading scorer this season to the floor.

Young sprang to his feet and shoved Len in the chest, prompting Suns forward Marcus Morris to shove Young back. That's when Young fought back and swung his arm at Dragic, ultimately pushing the Suns' guard in the back of the head with an open hand.

"I didn't throw no punch," Young said. "I was trying to shove people out of my way. I was getting pushed and pushed further back and it was more trying to get out [from the Suns players]."

Young was repentant for making contact with Dragic.

"It happened," Young said. "I feel bad. It's just basketball. I didn't try to push Dragic. That's my guy. I feel bad for that."

Young said he did not know whether he would receive a suspension stemming from the incident or not, but noted that he has never been suspended for fighting in his seven-year career.

"This would be my first time," Young said. "So, we'll see what happens. It's up to the league and what they decide."

Morris was called for a technical foul for his involvement in the scrum.

Young, who removed his jersey while making his way through a tunnel to the visitors locker room at U.S. Airways Center after being ejected, finished with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, three rebounds and one assist in 10 minutes. It marked just the second time in the last 25 games that Young failed to reach double-digit scoring. Len finished with one point and three rebounds in four minutes.

"I went up for the ball," Len said. "I didn't mean to hit him in the face. Hard foul. I wanted to block him but I was a little late so I was about to foul him. But I didn't mean to hit him in the face. I knew he was going to do that (retaliate) because I knocked him down on the floor. He had to get back. I respect that."

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