JaKarr Sampson suspended one game, won't play against OKC
Down four frontcourt players, the Pacers are forced into playing smaller lineups.
JaKarr Sampson has been suspended one-game without pay for headbutting guard Patty Mills in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to the Spurs.
Sampson will miss the Pacers’ home game on Wednesday against the Thunder, who have lost 14 of their last 15 games.
The trouble is the Pacers need Sampson to play. They currently lack interior depth. T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and Goga Bitadze are all out with injuries.
“I talked to him this morning at shootaround,” head coach Nate Bjorkgren said on Wednesday. “He feels bad. He’s such a good guy, such a great person and a great teammate. He knows I was gonna probably give him 40 minutes to play tonight, and he feels really bad that he’s not out there with Goga and Domas and Myles not playing. He knows it was an opportunity for him. He’s waited all years for opportunities like this.”
After the incident, which occurred with 9:32 left in the game, Sampson received a technical foul and a Flagrant-2 foul for unnecessary and excessive contact.
It’s unclear what agitated the Pacers forward, but he was not happy with Mills. He shoved him on the chest with two hands, then approached Mills and led with his head.
Mills stood his ground, but didn’t react, and veteran Rudy Gay came running in from the right corner. Both Mills and Gay received technical fouls during the game and were fined $25,000 by the league.
Justin Holiday, who does a little bit of everything for this team, kept Sampson from doing anything more. He came in and wrapped Sampson up, pulling him to the baseline. By that time, the team’s head of security arrived and had Sampson cool down away from the court in the south tunnel of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Watch the full sequence below:
The incident was surprising because Sampson is one of the nicest, most friendly players on the team. But something set him off, caused him to flip a switch and then you do not want to get in his way.
Sampson, 28, had two points and five rebounds in 16 minutes before being tossed. He’s played in five games this month due injuries after just two appearances (and 10 total minutes) in March.
The Pacers are 26-31 and have 15 games remaining in the season, including 10 at home.