Nikola Jokic accepted he "crossed the line" after being ejected from the Denver Nuggets' road win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, a decision which prompted boos from the opposing fans.
Jokic was ejected with just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, but Reggie Jackson stepped up with a team-high 25 points as Denver rallied in his absence for a 114-106 win.
The two-time NBA MVP was tossed after yelling at official Mousa Dagher while asking for a foul call, with ESPN reporting that he told Dagher: "Call the foul, mother******".
The pool report said Jokic was thrown out for "profane language that warranted an ejection", and while Jokic accepted he was in the wrong, he said other officials would not have called a technical for that offence.
"Sometimes it's not even a technical," Jokic said after the game. "I crossed the line, I understand, but sometimes that word doesn't cross the line. It is what it is."
Jokic's ejection led to boos from the Chicago crowd, and the Bulls were expecting a large contingent of Serbian fans to be in attendance on Jokic's only visit to United Center this regular season.
"It's the second-biggest Serbian population here," Jokic pointed out. "Belgrade is the first, and Chicago is the second. So, maybe they came to see me!"
While Denver coach Michael Malone was pleased to see Jokic's team-mates step up, he said the team must ensure that he stays in games for the duration.
"I think everybody was surprised it was a one-tech toss," Malone said. "Maybe I have to do a better job because if he's getting fouled or he thinks he's getting fouled, let me take the tech.
"That's my job as a head coach because I don't want him being put in that position where he is getting thrown out. It's not good for him and more importantly it's not good for the team.
"We can talk about how great our bench was tonight, but in the big picture, we need Nikola available. He knows that, and we just have to work on how we engage and how we communicate with the referees."
Jokic was not the subject of the only high-profile ejection across the NBA on Tuesday, with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green tossed for the third time this season in a 119-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Green was ejected in the third quarter after receiving a Flagrant 2 foul for hitting Jusuf Nurkic in the face, with the incident coming less than a month after he was banned for five games for putting the Minnesota Timberwolves' Rudy Gobert in a headlock.
Green must now wait on a league review to discover whether he will face another suspension, and he apologised for catching Nurkic in the aftermath of Golden State's loss.
"I am not one to apologise for things I do, but I do apologise to Jusuf because I didn't intend to hit him," Green said. "I sell calls with my arms. I was selling the call, I swung and unfortunately I hit him."
While Suns coach Frank Vogel called Green's behaviour "reckless" and "dangerous", the 33-year-old insisted he didn't intend to strike Nurkic.
"If I intended to do that, then I would feel awful about not being there," Green added. "But my intentions were just to sell the foul.
"You guys have known me long enough, if I intended to do something, I am not apologising. But I did make contact with him, so I do apologise. It's a hard hit."
Came up short.— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 13, 2023
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