Let. The. Players. Play.
The NBA is an entertainment product, let the players show their passion and joy. And let them celebrate and talk a little trash.
Cade Cunningham — who already had one technical from a play earlier in the game against the Suns — threw down an athletic and impressive reverse slam over Jalen Smith, then pointed at him (or someone), and instantly drew a second technical for taunting. Cunningham was ejected.
CADE WITH THE REVERSE SLAM 😮 pic.twitter.com/wfrrZKdWei
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 16, 2022
Here was how referee crew chief Kevin Cutler explained the ejection postgame, answering a question from pool reporter Rod Beard of the Detroit News:
“After he dunked the ball, he was assessed a technical foul for a physical taunt for pointing at the defender.”
There is a time and a place where a tech for some over-the-top taunting is deserved, but this was nowhere near that — and you have to know this means an ejection. The official needs to take a breath and decide if this is really the call they want to make.
Cunningham still finished with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
This call also didn’t change the game, the Suns were dominant from the start, looking every bit the best team in basketball, and they ran away with a 135-108 victory. Devin Booker scored 30 on 11-of-18 shooting.