LeBron James made his triumphant home debut for the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, drawing the defending Western Conference almost-champion Houston Rockets. ESPN put this one on a primetime Saturday night despite us being in the thick of college football: that’s how big a game this was.
The entire thing was overshadowed by two little dudes and one skinny guy getting into a brawl.
As nerves frayed during Lakers vs. Rockets, with four minutes left in a 1-point game, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo — both known to be unflappable and pleasant fellows — got face-to-face and ended up in fisticuffs. Brandon Ingram also joined the fray. All three ended up ejected, and the Rockets finished strong behind James Harden to get the victory.
Now the NBA is left to pick up the pieces with some further disciplinary measures. Until then, here are 12 thoughts on the brawl, Ingram’s judgment, Team Banana Boat, and more.
1. The whole thing began with one of two unforgivable sins
The Rockets claim that Rondo spit on CP3 — you can see Paul appear to wipe something off his face at the beginning of the fight. Rondo was reportedly adamant that he did not spit, which by his account would make CP3 sticking his finger in Rondo’s face the spark.
Here’s the deal: both are unforgivable in machismo NBA proceedings, so it really does matter whether Rondo spit. If he did, he got off light with a finger poke and two-piece from CP3. If he didn’t, CP3’s finger poke was an unnecessary provocation that led us past the point of no return.
Before we can actually determine who is at fault for inciting the whole thing, we need to see the definitive angle on whether Rondo spit. The problem for Rajon is while it’d be easy to prove he did it, it’s impossible to prove he didn’t!
2. My scorecard: Chris Paul wins 2-1
Look, violence is never the answer. But these are professionals. We need to break this down.
Rondo gets a clean shot at CP3 in the early moments.
But CP3 comes back strong, landing a two-piece on Rondo.
That’s a final score of Chris Paul 2, Rajon Rondo 1. Give him the belt.
3. Brandon Ingram threw a punch in the vicinity of P.J. Tucker
But another hero threw a punch: Brandon Ingram swooped in out of nowhere to throw a punch apparently at Rondo, but certainly in the vicinity of a peace-making P.J. Tucker, which was a horrifically bad idea that thankfully didn’t turn out a lot worse for Brandon Ingram, who would crumble like a model of the Globe Theatre built out of toothpicks on which an anvil is dropped had he actually connected with Tucker on purpose or accident and drawn his wrath.
They need to teach this at the Rookie Symposium. Before you throw a wild punch in a melee, look around. Is P.J. Tucker present? Is there anything above a 0% chance that Tucker could be grazed, nudged or booped by your first? Consider also the chance an earthquake strikes at the precise moment of your haymaker, causing Tucker to fall into your arm. Is there any chance Tucker would believe you intended or did strike him? If so, do not swing. In fact, you’d best put your hands in your pockets and start whistling a song with a calming melody, like “Sweet Home Alabama” or something by System of a Down.
4. Brandon Ingram is basically Dhalsim
Look, we need to convince young Ingram this was a terrible idea. That said … his reach is incredible!
5. What are you doing, Brandon Ingram?!
Why did Ingram punch CP3? The Paul camp was wondering the same thing, especially because both are Carolinians and CP3 has apparently mentoring Ingram a bit. But according to reporting from Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen, the Lakers believed the Rockets were targeting Ingram during the game to get under his skin. Lance Stephenson told Faigen that he’d been trying to hold Ingram back because he knew he was fed up.
Well, bad job of that, Lance. Real bad job.
Ingram is definitely getting a 1- or 2-game suspension out of this. So unnecessary. He didn’t even get spit on or booped in the face!
6. Carmelo Anthony is so annoyed
7. LeBron had to wrap up one of his best friends to break it up
A fun subplot is that LeBron had to wrap up CP3 to end the brawl. LeBron and CP3 are famously extremely good friends! What do you suppose LeBron said to Paul as he wrapped him up? “The sun’s getting real low, big guy.”
8. This fracas featured three out of four members of Team Banana Boat
9. The crowd chanted Rondo’s name
This guy’s career has made a complete rebound after getting kicked off the team during the playoffs in Dallas and getting a well-deserved suspension for dropping a hateful slur on an official in Sacramento. He was thoroughly disliked by everyone (with good reason) there for a while. Now he’s only disliked by the people actively punching him in the face.
10. Chris Paul fights like every time he’s back in L.A.
Last year, CP3 was involved in a fight against his old Clipper teammates, starring secret tunnels and ambushes. This year he’s punching Rajon Rondo on the STAPLES court on live national television. Chill, Chris!
11. CP3, Rondo, and Ingram are definitely getting suspended
The NBA is expected to hand down suspensions on Sunday because the Rockets have another game. All three of the primary actors are getting at least one game. If the league can confirm Rondo spit at CP3, that’s at least one more. Ingram might also get two games for coming in wild out of nowhere. CP3 will likely only get one, maybe two.
The Lakers are now 0-2, by the way. They can’t really afford healthy scratches due to discipline.
12. A celebrity got involved, too
This is Hollywood, after all. Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was involved, too.
Here’s the official caption from the photo from USA Today Sports:
Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the band Red Hot Chili Pepper, is escorted off the floor after he yelled profanities at Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (not pictured) while he was being lead off the floor after he was ejected from the fourth quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
Who among us has not been escorted off the floor after yelling profanities at Chris Paul?