NBA Addresses L.A. Fight, Teams Suffer in the Aftermath
Marcio Jose Sanchez - AP
The league office released a statement stating Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, and Brandon Ingram have received two, three, and four-games suspensions respectively in the aftermath of the on-court incidents late in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. What began as an exchange of words then escalated into a quarrel that involved players from both teams swinging fists.
It all started when Brandon Ingram from the Los Angeles Lakers fouled Houston Rockets' James Harden in a transition play with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter. Harden made a layup after the whistle was blown but the official said he called the foul before Harden began his driving motion; the reigning league MVP disagreed and let the referee know about it. That apparently did not sit well with Ingram, who pushed Harden away and was immediately issued a technical foul.
While the situation was trying to get quickly solved by officials, players from both teams started exchanging words. That is when Lakers guard Rajon Rondo allegedly spit on Rockets guard Chris Paul, who immediately poked Rondo in the eyes. Rondo then threw the first punch and both continued to throw punches as referees, teammates, and others tried to separate them. Ingram was away from the fight at the moment when it started but inexplicably came back and hit Paul with a punch of his own. Here is a look at the whole sequence:
There were mixed reactions from the online NBA community, but one thing most people agreed on was how bad of a look this was for Ingram. Not only did he unnecessarily push Harden to begin the scuffle, but he got himself involved in a fist fight he had no business in. Unsurprisingly, he was issued the longest suspension. "Ingram has been suspended for aggressively returning to and escalating the altercation and throwing a punch in the direction of Paul, confronting a game official in a hostile manner, and insitigating the overall incident by shoving Rockets guard James Harden," the official statement of the league said.
The absence of the three players involved in the incidents has been key for both teams. The Rockets lost a close game to the Los Angeles Clippers one night after the fight and could have certainly used Paul's playmaking wizardry and scoring to pull it off. The Lakers then lost an overtime game to the San Antonio Spurs last night, and having Ingram and Rondo available could have avoided the disaster. A fight in national TV was not a good look for the NBA and hopefully the sanctions will meet the purpose of sending a clear message to the rest of the league that such behaviors are not tolerated.
"That's tough," Chris Paul said of being suspended. "Somebody spit on you, you know. Play this long and that has never happened, but it is what it is."
Rondo continued to deny the spit ever happened, or at least that it was not intentional. "One, if I spit on you, bottom line, there is not going to be no finger-pointing. If you felt that I just spit on you, then all bets are off. Two, look at my body language. If I spit on you on purpose, I'm going to be ready for a man to swing on me. You ain't going to have my hands on my hip and my head look away at someone if I spit on them. After the [expletive] goes down, within 30 seconds, you run and tell the sideline reporters that I spit on you? If I spit on you, you are trying to get to me. You not trying to make up a story so you can look like a good guy. It makes no sense to me."
He went as far as criticizing Paul as a person and blaming the media for going with the spit narrative. "Everyone wants to believe Chris Paul is a good guy. They don't know he's a horrible teammate. They don't know how he treats people. Look at what he did last year when he was in L.A.; trying to get to the Clippers' locker room. They don't want to believe he's capable of taunting and igniting an incident." ... He comes out and says I spit and the media sides with that."
Paul's next chance to play will be this Friday as the Rockets face the Los Angeles Clippers; Rondo can make his return as early as this Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs while Ingram will have to wait until next Monday's matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves.