A heated exchange between Kings coach Dave Joerger and guard Buddy Hield during a critical moment in Thursday night’s 125-123 loss to the Golden State Warriors gained widespread attention on television, radio and the internet. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard even weighed in with some pointed words on Twitter.
Joerger appeared to get angry with Hield over his shot selection after Hield made a 32-foot 3-pointer to cut the Warriors’ lead to three with 19 seconds remaining. A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the altercation, said Joerger was upset because Hield’s shot was not the play he called from the sideline.
“Why don’t you just coach the f---ing team?” Joerger said as Hield made his way to the sideline during a dead-ball situation.
Joerger and Hield exchanged words for about 40 seconds while Warriors forward Kevin Durant stood nearby listening.
“What’s wrong with your coach?” Durant asked Hield. “You made a great shot.”
The Kings were trailing by two with six seconds to play when Hield got an open look at the same shot he made 13 seconds earlier. Instead of taking what could have been a game-winning shot, Hield pump faked, drove into the lane and missed a turnaround, fade-away jumper as time expired.
Minutes after the buzzer sounded, video clips of the exchange between Joerger and Hield were spread over the internet. Some wondered if Hield passed up an open shot for the win as a result of the confrontation with Joerger, a Coach of the Year candidate who has led a young team into playoff contention.
Lillard offered his opinion on Twitter.
“Maybe if his coach didn’t yell at him for MAKING the same shot he would have shot the mf,” Lillard tweeted.
These heat-of-the-moment discussions happen often between players and coaches over the course of the season, but this one might have cost the Kings a big win in a tightly contested Western Conference playoff race. The Kings now trail the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers by 1 1/2 games going into Saturday’s road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the game, Joerger was asked if he thought Hield should have attempted the long 3-pointer he passed up in the final seconds.
“Yeah, I thought he had a good look there at the top of the key,” Joerger said.
In an emotional moment in the team’s locker room, Hield said he regretted passing up the open shot.
“I should have pulled that (expletive). I should have pulled it. No excuse,” Hield said. “This one stings a lot, but to come back like that and to have an opportunity to win the game ... I’ve got to do a better job, block everything out and just (shoot) it.”