The Phoenix Suns outlasted the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, with a 116-113 win at home that at the time moved them to 13-10 in the Western Conference. With Thursday's subsequent loss to the Brooklyn Nets however, they have moved back down to the 10th spot in the conference.
The win over the Warriors was supposed to be the official welcome back for Chris Paul - after he had been ejected early in the first meeting between the teams earlier this season - but that return was quickly overshadowed by another ejection to a different player during the game.
In a moment of madness that has become far too commonplace at this stage, Draymond Green was ejected for lashing out at Suns' center Jusuf Nurkic.
Green was quick to apologize on this occasion, claiming that he was trying to sell a call, and that he had no intention of striking Nurkic in the way that he did. The swing itself was wild, and if you somehow haven't seen the incident in question itself, then you can make your own mind up on what Green was trying to do here.
It would be completely understandable if Nurkic had of reacted badly to Green's actions. Basketball is a physical game - especially when two bigger guys are going at it - and everybody has been hit with a stray elbow or a sly dig at some point. This seemed to go beyond that, and yet Nurkic's response when asked about the incident was one of complete class.
"Personally, I feel like that brother needs help. I still have it (respect for Green). I don’t know what people go through. It’s not our problem, but he’s an NBA champion for me, Hall of Famer still."- Jusuf Nurkic
Not only did Nurkic handle being asked about what happened really well, he also showed an understanding of his role on this Suns roster when speaking to the media. Nurkic is the only player on the team so far to play in every game. The next closest is Kevin Durant at 20, while Wednesday's loss to the Nets was the first time Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal have played together.
So durable has Nurkic been to this point, that we've already spoken about how everybody owes him an apology. As an injury-prone big, he has been incredibly consistent on the offensive end, while defensively has been at times even better than the modest expectations set out for him. He might not stop Nikola Jokic for seven games, but Nurkic understands his importance.
"I learned in this league when you respond to some shit like that, you're getting fined. So you're getting the penalties... I'm too valuable for this team to get in foul trouble or getting techs or getting kicked out."- Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic isn't blowing his own trumpet here, he just understands that he will be the starting big for the Suns for the duration of this season. With Chimezie Metu starting the last two games in the continued absence of Grayson Green, that is another big who has been taken from the depth behind Nurkic, and plopped into the starting lineup.
Beyond that, Drew Eubanks is a serviceable backup, while the jury is still out on Bol Bol. Head coach Frank Vogel had a positive update on Bol's future with the team recently, but then you see moments like the below on the defensive end, and it is hard to see where he will fit in once the intensity goes up a notch after Christmas.
This is not a dig at Bol - who was actually on the court for a nice Suns run the other night - but more a testament to Nurkic and the fact he not only handled the Green situation well, but understands he has to be out there to help this team win. By not getting goaded into an argument and potentially missing time, while also genuinely hoping Green changes his ways, shows the maturity of Nurkic.