Updated: Nov 11, 2018
October 20th was one of the most highly anticipated debuts in NBA history with Lebron James at the staples center. The home opener for the Los Angeles Lakers was broadcasted in 179 countries worldwide and had the celebrity roster of a red carpet event. Their match up against the Houston rockets was set to be a good preview of how well the Lakers stack up against a top team in the western conference. Once James was introduced and the ball was in the air, it was game time
The atmosphere seemed like anything but the 2nd game of the season. The combination of physical play, controversial calls, and playoff intensity from the Lakers faithful contributed to the overall setting of the game. All of this would be over-shadowed early in the fourth quarter when the tension seemed to peak. James Ennis was called for a flagrant foul for close lining Josh Hart to the ground; a play so violent Lakers head coach Luke Walton said “I’m shocked he was left in the game, he should have easily been ejected “.
With 4:13 left in the game Brandon Ingram was called for a foul while trying to defend a drive by James Harden. Ingram was frustrated, shoved Harden, and then confronted referee Jason Phillips, who was easily half his size. Ingram received a technical foul but kept talking until Lance Stephenson pulled him away. Later in the locker room, Stephenson said he advised Ingram and the rest of the Lakers not to “fall for their tricks.”
As Ingram was being calmed down by Stephenson, and began to walk away from Harden, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul were in a confrontation near the foul line. After what appeared to be Rondo spitting in the face of Chris Paul, he poked at Rondo’s face, leading to a fury of punches exchanged from the two guards. Ingram re-entered the scene and threw a punch intended for Paul, to the defense of his teammate. James then grabbed and pulled Paul off to the side to protect his friend while the referees attempted to handle the chaos. James, who is god father to Paul’s kids as Paul is to James’s kids, found himself in an awkward spot protecting one of his best friends (Paul), against a teammate (Rondo.)
Paul and Rondo have a history of bad blood throughout their careers, including small confrontations, and Paul controversially making the 2008 Olympic team over Rondo, although they have never been into a scrum of this nature together.
There were some reports that the scuffle extended off the court, with one of Rondo’s family members confronting Paul’s wife, Jada. Alongside this, the lead singer of the red-hot chili peppers (Anthony Kiedis) was escorted out of staples center for yelling profanities at Chris Paul as he was being pulled away by James.
Once play resumed, the atmosphere in the building was completely different, with the crowd chanting “Rondo“ for occasional periods. The Rockets then went on a 15-7 run, with Harden leading the way and putting the “nail in the coffin “with a 3 pointer in the final minute of play, putting the game out of reach. Harden finished with 36 points while James tallied up 24 of his own.
The NBA handed out suspensions for the Brawl in the 4thquarter, giving Paul a 2-game suspension, Rondo 3, and Ingram 4, all without pay. Ingram received the worst punishment because the NBA said he “aggressively returned to altercation and escalated it by throwing a punch towards Paul, along with confronting an official.”
We will see how this will affect the horrific start of the Lakers season, and the continued momentum of the Rockets. I expect this wont be the last suspenseful game we see between these two teams and could possibly carry over to when the playoffs start in June.