SALT LAKE CITY -- Delonte West joked that he was only trying to get some lint out of Gordon Hayward's hair before saying he was actually going in to deliver a wet willy to the Utah Jazz forward during Monday night's game.
Grade-school kids know the technique, in which a finger is wetted in the mouth and then poked into an unsuspecting person's ear.
When a reporter asked if it was actually a "West willy," the Dallas Mavericks guard couldn't help cracking a smile.
West said there's no hard feelings toward Hayward after West lost his cool late in the second quarter of Utah's 123-121 triple-overtime victory. West aggressively and unnecessarily flung his arm at Hayward well away from the ball to pick up his third foul with 3:40 to go in the first half. After the whistle, West followed Hayward and suddenly poked his index finger in the vicinity of Hayward's ear.
Hayward said Tuesday he was less than thrilled with West's school-yard tactic.
"I wanted to fight right there, but you can't do that," Hayward said before practice Tuesday. "It wouldn't have been the smart idea. I'd risk getting a technical foul, getting suspended for the season, whatever. There's more important things than fighting someone out on the court. The more important thing was getting the win and we were able to do that."
But Hayward said he "got the last laugh" as Utah picked up the win to keep alive its slim playoff hopes with four games remaining.
None of the three referees initially saw the strange jab, but the crowd sure did and it went berserk. The refs then conferred and went to the video replay, after which they called a technical foul on West. He said the unorthodox poke straight from the script of the film "The Three Stooges" -- which West might or might not have taken in during this road trip -- was nothing more than a heat-of-the-battle moment.
"We're two warriors, man; we're out there battling on the battlefield," West said. "I forgot, the NBA is a gentleman's game, so we've got to fight and scrap and do it nicely. Everything is left on the court, though. That's what it is."
West said he didn't recall ever giving a finger poke to another player at any level of competitive basketball and he said he didn't know what triggered it Monday. He said he and Hayward did not exchange words and it was not a case of building frustration boiling over.
"I wasn't frustrated. Like I said, you get caught up in the game, in the motion, it's physical and you just get caught in the moment sometimes," West said. "But like I say, you leave things where they're at and you get on to the next play."
Unfortunately for West, he immediately was subbed out of the game because of foul trouble and wouldn't get back in until the start of the third quarter. That was the bigger issue for the slow-starting Mavs, who had just closed an 11-point gap to one. West didn't have an answer for why he committed the initial foul, let alone the "West willy." He said he wasn't disappointed about getting himself taken out of the game because of a silly foul.
"No, I'm not disappointed in anything. The game is the game," West said. "The players play and the refs ref. I'm not worried about whatever call is made. Everyone is doing their best. Like I said, you just get caught up in the moment of the game."
West said he's not concerned about the league reviewing the play and possibly levying a fine.
"You never know," West said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.