Throughout the regular season, Dime will take a longer than 280 characters look at a few key notes and stats during some of the league’s most important matchups. First up: the fireworks-filled battle between the Rockets and Lakers.
LOS ANGELES – Kendall Jenner made her way out of the Staples Center still buzzing about what she’d just witnessed. The megastar can afford to see or do just about anything, but this was a first. She shook her head trying to explain what happened, funneling out of the arena with her entourage in tow. The NBA and fans of the Rockets and Lakers would spend the rest of the night and into the morning trying to explain what happened as well, as the early season success of both teams hinges on what the league decides following a scuffle that involved pushes, potential spitters, eye pokes, punches, and even a little family on family altercation.
Here’s what we know: Brandon Ingram will get the lengthiest suspension, as he shoved James Harden unprovoked following a foul call on a Harden drive. There was some intimidation of the ref at play, jawing, and he sprinted back into the fray after Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul started their theatrics, throwing a haymaker at Paul after LeBron James had already wrapped his friend up. The Rockets — and especially Paul — are convinced Rondo spit on CP3, leading to the eye poke and push, and the back-and-forth of punches thrown. The Lakers are backing Rondo’s claim that the spit didn’t happen, or was inadvertent.
“This was some heated stuff,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “I’m sure some spit was thrown, and when you cross the line that happens. The NBA will sort it out and they will do a good job of it.”
The bad blood between Rondo and Paul didn’t stop on the court; as following the game Paul was dressed quickly — in gold-framed glasses and a red Winston-Salem State sweatshirt — before the locker rooms even opened up, clearly agitated and frantically searching for NBA reps and Staples Centers staffers. Paul briefly spoke to D’Antoni in front of the locker room hinting that the history between Rondo and himself “ain’t no secret” and that someone “tried to run up on her.” Her — we’d later find out — being Paul’s wife, and that someone as a member of Rondo’s family.
The NBA encourages all sorts of drama, on social media and otherwise, but it’s drawn a relatively hard line in the sand when it comes to on (and off) court violence. Like, subtweet or emoji away, but keep it civil. Once punches are thrown and families are involved, it runs the risk of turning into something more. This early in the season, there’s a chance to set a precedent for these sorts of incidents, so don’t be surprised if the suspensions are a bit longer than anticipated.
In LeBron’s first season in L.A., the lights have never been brighter, but neither has the potential for criticism. James did the right thing in playing peacemaker — even Lance Stephenson went with that role as well, helping to hold back Ingram along with LeBron’s friend Carmelo Anthony — holding back Paul to keep things from escalating further. He advocated for the signing of Rondo, Lance, and JaVale McGee, so he knew antics were always possible, and now he’s potentially out a chance to build chemistry with Rondo and third-year Ingram for a chunk of the early going.
The Lakers aren’t there yet; and they have a long way to go before they can easily beat the upper teams in the west. With what looks to be a crowded playoff battle, how they play with the absence of Rondo and Ingram — for however many games that is — will be critical. James has stressed patience at every turn heading into this year, but that tune always has the possibility of changing if the team sputters off to something like a 3-7 start.
Onto the notes: