The NBA suspended Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (four games), guard Rajon Rondo (three games) and Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul (two games), all without pay, for their roles in a fourth-quarter fight on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
“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 instigating the overall incident by shoving Rockets guard James Harden,” the league said in a statement. “Rondo has been suspended for instigating a physical altercation with, and spitting and throwing multiple punches at, Paul. Paul has been suspended for poking at and making contact with the face of Rondo, and throwing multiple punches at him.”
Rondo received one more game than Paul because he threw the first punch, NBA vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe, who was in attendance for Saturday night’s skirmish, told SportsCenter on Sunday night.
“We try to judge each one of these [incidents] on the merits, who does what, who instigates, how dangerous the situation becomes and is,” VanDeWeghe said. “And also the discipline is an act of deterrence. We want to make sure that we deter this further action and make a statement that this is not acceptable. Fighting’s not acceptable in our league and never has been.”
Paul will serve his suspension Sunday night, when the Rockets face the Clippers at Staples Center.
With 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the game Saturday and the Rockets ahead 109-108, a fight occurred with multiple participants.
The NBA was evaluating a video shot courtside that appeared to capture Rondo spitting into the face of Paul at Staples Center, league sources told ESPN earlier Sunday. The Rockets’ video staff took the footage courtside during the game, and it was shared with the league office, sources said.
“I don’t agree with anything close to it,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday. “It wasn’t equitable. You watch the film, you watch the spit. What is he supposed to do, just stand there and get spit on?”
When asked earlier Sunday if Rondo spit on Paul, Lakers coach Luke Walton said, “No.”
The Lakers met as a team on Sunday in their film room and discussed the brawl. Rondo and Ingram practiced Sunday but did not talk with reporters.
“We’ve learned from the experience, and we’re moving on,” Walton said before the suspensions came down. “We learned — everyone learns something differently, but we brought it up, we talked about it, the message was delivered. And now it’s about next man up, moving forward, and keep positive, keep getting better.”
Rondo threw a punch at Paul after Paul poked a finger into his face. Once Rondo and Paul’s altercation occurred, Ingram sprinted from half court and threw a punch of his own in the direction of Paul and PJ Tucker that did not land cleanly.
VanDeWeghe said Ingram’s punishment could have been worse had his punch connected, but the league was satisfied with the punishment it handed out.
“He left the altercation. He went away, and when it started up again, he came back in,” VanDeWeghe said of Ingram. “And yes, very dangerous play, can lead to some terrible consequences. He did miss, but it was the act itself and the potential consequences. And believe me, four games is a lot. It’s a lot monetarily for the player, [and] it hurts the team.”
Rondo made the case that he didn’t spit on Paul and was provoked into throwing a punch after Paul poked a finger into his face and left a scratch under his right eye, league sources said. Rondo pointed to the fact that he was wearing a mouthguard, which would impact his ability to intentionally spit on someone.
Lonzo Ball, last season’s starter at point guard, could replace Rondo in the starting lineup. Walton said he would meet with training staff members on Sunday to see if Ball’s early season minutes restriction will be lifted.
The Lakers had been easing the point guard back into action after offseason knee surgery. Ball played 26 minutes and finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Rockets.
Kyle Kuzma is an option to start for Ingram.
Information from ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk was used in this report.