Los Angeles Lakers forward Montrezl Harrell said he doesn't know what sparked an altercation with Philadelphia 76ers center Dwight Howard late in the first quarter of Thursday night's game at Staples Center.
"I don't know, honestly. I don't even care to be real with you. I was just playing basketball, man," Harrell told reporters before adding:
"I'm not backing down from nobody, man. I don't take that lightly. I don't take none of that disrespect. You're not gonna push me all around the court and just feel like you're gonna big-boy me and just attack me or whatever. It's not in my blood, it will never be in my blood. I don't care what nobody feels about it, I don't care who don't like me. It is what it is."
Harrell also stated he felt like Howard was trying to bully him. "That don't fly with me," the 27-year-old reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year continued. "That's not in my blood, and it's never going to be in my blood."
Both players received a technical foul for the confrontation, and Howard was ejected a short time later for what the referees deemed was intentional contact as the Sixers' big man ran into Harrell during their way to the benches between the first and second quarters.
Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers wasn't happy with Howard, who received his championship ring from the Lakers before tip-off for being part of the 2020 squad that won the NBA Finals.
"I just thought it was a very selfish play," Rivers said. "You got one tech, you can't get another one. We just have to have better discipline. I get it. I know there's a lot of emotion. But we had one center on our team, and he got thrown out. I was not very happy with that one. I know it's an emotional game. But he's a veteran. We got to have better discipline."
Harrell's and Howard's career paths briefly intercepted in November when the Lakers were set to sign a post player in free agency.
Howard posted a message on Twitter that he was staying with L.A., but he quickly deleted it and the front office later signed Harrell to fill the roster void.
The 76ers won Thursday's game 109-101 to improve their Eastern Conference-leading record to 32-12. The Lakers, who remain without superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis because of injury, dropped their fourth straight game to fall to 28-17.
Philadelphia also won the teams' matchup in late January, 107-106, giving it a regular-season sweep of the defending champions. They won't meet again until a potential clash in the Finals.