UPDATE: Rockets’ rookie suspended for shoving referee

Montrezl Harrell is facing a five-game suspension. (USA Today Sports)

UPDATE: Houston Rockets forward Montrezl Harrell has been suspended five games without pay in the NBA Development League for pushing a referee to the floor during an altercation.

Also, Bakersfield forward Derek Cooke Jr. was suspended one game without pay for pushing Harrell during the skirmish in a game Saturday.

It happened right after Bakersfield completed a 119-115 victory over Rio Grande, where Harrell is on assignment from the Rockets. The National Basketball Referees Association had called for a multiple-game suspension, saying Harrell committed "deliberate assault and battery" against the referee.

Harrell is ineligible to be recalled by the Rockets until he has completed his D-League suspension, which he began serving Tuesday.

Montrezl Harrell was selected by the Rockets in the second round of last summer’s draft, and like many first-year players, he’s spending some time in the D-League to get heavier minutes than would be available to him if he were sitting at the end of the Houston bench.

Harrell appears to be a legitimate NBA talent who will one day earn a consistent place in the rotation. But one of the drawbacks of playing in the D-League is that often times you’re going up against guys who will never get that chance, and who aren’t afraid to mix it up.

That’s what happened at the end of a game between Rio Grande Valley and Bakersfield on March 26, and after Harrell was shoved by Derek Cooke Jr. (who went undrafted out of Wyoming and is playing in his first D-League season), he shoved an official to the ground who was trying to keep the peace.

The National Basketball Referees Association weighed in on the incident, but probably went a little bit overboard in defending one of its members.

“After carefully reviewing videotape and related evidence concerning this incident, we have reached the inescapable conclusion that Harrell committed a deliberate assault and battery against Referee Goldenberg. Anything less than a multiple game suspension would constitute a green light for violence against officials,” said Lee Seham, NBRA general counsel.

The suspension is certainly coming. But this was a heat-of-the-moment situation, one where Harrell was emotionally-charged after being hit by an opposing player. It’s clear he had no ill will toward the official, and was simply trying to retaliate. While the response from the NBRA was a predictable one, this was about the furthest thing possible from being a premeditated act of violence.