Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets in their home opener on Saturday night, but things got even uglier when a fight broke out between Brandon Ingram, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo that resulted in the trio all being ejected from the game.
Rondo and CP3 threw hands in Lakers-Rockets brawl pic.twitter.com/Z0eWmxDdTH— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 21, 2018
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of the Athletic, it appears that suspensions could be looming for all three players:
With the NBA’s Kiki VanDeWeghe on the scene at Staples, investigation into Rockets-Lakers fight is underway tonight and there is potential for suspensions as soon as Sunday, league source tells ESPN. Rockets play Clippers on a back-to-back.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 21, 2018
Sources: Lakers officials watched tape and are backing Rajon Rondo’s contention that he didn’t spit on Chris Paul. Meanwhile, CP3 and Rockets are insisting that Rondo did spit. “Lot of history between them,” one source connected to both players says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 21, 2018
Sources on @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium: Lakers’ Rajon Rondo is adamant there was no spit toward Rockets’ Chris Paul tonight and is livid over the accusation. Lakers spoke with Rondo and looked over tape in which neither side saw such behavior.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 21, 2018
As to what took things from a standard NBA “hold me back” altercation to an actual fight with punches being thrown, the Lakers universally claimed they weren’t sure — and Ingram and Rondo didn’t speak to the media — but according to Charania, things may have even extended beyond the court:
Sources on @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium: Along with Chris Paul/Rajon Rondo altercation in Lakers-Rockets, one of Rondo’s family members confronted Paul’s wife, Jada. NBA investigating tonight’s on-court altercations ahead of Rockets/Clippers on Sunday.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 21, 2018
Lance Stephenson, who had been trying to keep Ingram away from the fracas before Ingram returned following Rondo’s punch to throw one of his own, said that he thought the Rockets might have been targeting Ingram.
”I think they was picking on him. That’s why I tried to grab him as quickly as possible and tell him ‘Don’t fall for the trick.’ And I guess we fell for it,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson felt that both teams should have also done a better job of keeping things from turning violent.
”I think our guys didn’t get there and push our players away. Both Rockets and the Lakers we should’ve just broke our players up,” Stephenson said, although he added that if Paul hadn’t provoked Rondo, things wouldn’t have escalated.
“I felt like he shouldn’t have put his hand in Rondo’s face. Because you hit somebody in the face, you know what’s going to happen after that,” Stephenson said.
LeBron James said that after everything went down, he was just focused on helping the Lakers recompose themselves and win the game.
“I just tried to calm things down, that’s all,” James said.
The team ultimately couldn’t pull out the victory and now may lose two of their key players, but not everyone on the team thought the fight was a complete negative.
“I’d rather see a guy with some fight in him,” said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton didn’t quite go that far, calling the incident “unfortunate,” but he also said he didn’t see the actual fight, saying he was drawing up a play at the time because he thought the referees had things under control.
Still, Walton thought things had crossed a line a few moments earlier, when Rockets forward James Ennis clotheslined Josh Hart on a fast break and was hit with a Flagrant One foul, allowing him to stay in the game.
“I have zero idea how that’s a flagrant one,” Walton said.
And while it’s unclear what the penalties will be to Ingram, Rondo or Paul — and the Lakers can scarcely afford to lose either of their players — Walton also said that he’s seen altercations like this one galvanize a team.
“It has before. I will hope it will have that impact on our guys,” Walton said.
Or at least those that are left after whatever inevitable penalties for the brouhaha are handed down.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.