LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers Staples Center debut against the Houston Rockets turned into an ugly scene late in the fourth quarter when things between the two teams got physical.
Chris Paul, Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were all ejected from the game as they all threw punches in a fight that broke out with just around four minutes to go in the game.
Ingram stirred the pot of emotions when he shoved James Harden out of nowhere in frustration after a foul call. The two went at it briefly before teammates came in to separate the two.
As Ingram was walking off, things then began to get heated between Rondo and Paul, who were throwing verbal jabs at each other. That’s when all hell broke loose.
Watch the entire sequence below:
So, who’s to blame for all of this? Obviously, the three suspects are the ones who got ejected. Let’s investigate, shall we?
Suspect 1: Brandon Ingram
The case for Ingram is that he was the one who actually started everything. His shove to Harden was clearly a sign of frustration. Harden pushed off of Ingram on his drive to the basket, but the referee called the foul on the latter. As Harden was asking the referee for a continuation on the play, Ingram shoved him out of nowhere, causing a verbal altercation between the two.
The push by Ingram, however, seemed unwarranted as Harden did not do anything to provoke him. His emotions just got the better of him.
Ingram’s teammates immediately came towards him to calm him down and walk him off. As his head was just about to cool off, another fight ensued between Rondo and Paul.
When Ingram turned around and saw the two going at it, he ran back into the picture and delivered his own blow to Paul. Obviously, he was still very emotional and was not able to control his actions anymore.
Had he not returned into the fold, he probably would not have been ejected, and would not face any further repercussions. But he let his emotions win and he’s going to have to face the consequences.
Suspect 2: Rajon Rondo
This would be Chris Paul’s side of the story. At first, it seemed like the brawl started when Paul shoved Rondo right in the face. However, the Rockets All-Star point guard was heard during the broadcast that Rondo spit on his face, which he obviously took exception to:
Chris Paul told our broadcast crew this all started because Rajon Rondo spit in his face. When the second replay cycles through you can see Chris wiping his face before he goes at Rondo. pic.twitter.com/2DxPjWdYCu
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 21, 2018
Paul may actually have a case since he and Rondo seemed to be just having a heated dialogue, which is expected in such a highly contested game.
But at some point during the conversation, Paul looked like he wiped something off of his face. That’s when Paul went berserk and took a shot at Rondo.
Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic posted on Twitter what appears to be video evidence that may verify Paul’s accusations. In the video, there appears to be some kind of mist coming out of Rondo’s mouth. Paul’s head also appeared to jerk in reaction to the spit.
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 21, 2018
If the evidence proves that the accusations made by Paul are indeed true, then Rondo has to be blamed for this escalating out of control. I don’t think Paul would have struck Rondo in the first place if he didn’t do anything of that nature to provoke Paul.
Suspect 3: Chris Paul
While Paul claims Rondo caused the altercation by spitting on him, the Lakers guard is denying all allegations and said he didn’t spit at Paul, per Shams Charania of The Athletic:
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
But as shown above, there may be evidence to Paul’s claims, which makes it all the more understandable as to why he acted so violently. Furthermore, his sudden reaction of wiping his face during the verbal exchange actually already warrants consideration as evidence.
Nonetheless, Paul was still the one who landed the first physical strike in the entire sequence. But in terms of being the reason for the escalation of the fight, Paul’s case is minimal.
Whose fault is it?
I think Brandon Ingram is to blame for the entire scuffle happening to begin with. He was the first to let his emotions get the best of him. If he didn’t stir the pot to begin with, then all of this wouldn’t have happened.
The fight between Paul and Rondo was arguably a result of Ingram’s emotions getting hot. Yes, the game was tight. Things can get chippy and emotions can run high in a highly contested game. But everybody was just playing hard at that point until Ingram shoved Harden out of nowhere.
If Rondo did actually spit in Paul’s face, which the new footage may prove, then he has to be blamed for the fight escalating to the level it got to. While Paul did land the first strike, it is understandable. You can’t expect him to just stand there and do nothing when another man spits in your face.
Needless to say, all three men did their part in this crazy scuffle, and they will pay their dues for their actions. But at least we didn’t get to witness a Malice at the Palace II here.