Less than 24 hours after a fight broke out in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers game, the NBA suspended Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, and Brandon Ingram for their roles in the fracas.

Chris Paul Rajon Rondo Fight
LeBron James separates Chris Paul from Rajon Rondo (Image: Harry How/Getty Images)

After reviewing footage of the incident, the NBA suspended Houston Rockets’ guard Chris Paul for two games, L.A. Lakers’ guard Rajon Rondo for three games, and Lakers’ forward Brandon Ingram for four games.

Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo (and Brandon Ingram)

A star-studded crowd took in the Lakers home opener on Saturday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Opening night was the toughest ticket in town, because everyone in Southern California wanted to see LeBron James’ home debut in a Lakers’ uniform.

The night kicked off with a special video from Ice Cube declaring that showtime has returned to Los Angeles. The high-paced game was close heading into the fourth quarter. The up-and-coming Lakers trailed by one point when the fight broke out.

With 4:13 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Brandon Ingram fouled James Harden after he initiated contact on a breakaway. Ingram shoved Harden after the whistle and a scrum formed. A teammate dragged Ingram away, however, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul clashed in a heated exchange. For the last decade the two guards battled each other with no shortage of bad blood between the two. Rajon spit at Paul, who responded with a poke in the eye. Rondo retaliated with a punch. Paul fought back. LeBron James pulled Paul away as a crowd of officials and player separated the two. That’s the exact moment Brandon Ingram rejoined the fracas. Ingram ran in and threw a flying punch that failed to connect. Officials reviewed the tape and ejected Rondo, Paul, and Ingram.

NBA Official Statement

The Rockets, the top team in the Southwest division, will lose starting point guard Chris Paul for two games. The Lakersí starting point guard Rajon Rondo will sit out for three games, while starting forward Brandon Ingram will serve a four-game suspension.

The NBA explained their position in a press release:

“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. 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.”

“We had multiple punches here of two of the players, Chris and Rondo and there was contact,” NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, Kiki VanDeWeghe said in a conference call with reporters. “It was difficult to judge how much contact, but there was contact.”

Brandon Ingram received a more severe punishment than the other players. VanDeWeghe explained their stance, “With Brandon, again, we looked at the whole incident. There was the push on [James] Harden. There was the confrontation with [official] Jason Phillips in very tight quarters. And then there was a period when he walked away and he was pushed away and taken away. When things started up again, he came back in extremely aggressively and then threw a very aggressive punch to somebody who wasn’t looking. That’s a very dangerous play. I think we made it clear in the strongest terms that that was a dangerous play and itís completely unacceptable.”

D’Antoni Balks

“It’s just not equitable,” said Houston coach Mike D’Antoni. “If you wanted to suspend him one game I get it, just to make a statement. Then you’re talking monetarily, he’s paying three times more than the other guys are paying for missing games? That doesn’t seem to be right.”

VanDeWeghe attended the game and witnessed the fight in person. “The discipline is an act of deterrence,” VanDeWeghe said. “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.”

Spitgate

The Lakers stood by their player and said there was no intentional spitting. The NBA disagreed.

“We have a clear view that, however you want to interpret it, that there was spitting in Chris Paulís direction,” said VanDeWeghe.

A video surfaced with proof of the spitting incident. The video became fodder for social media meme accounts, comparing it to a scene from Oliver Stone’s film JFK, when Jim Garrison studies the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination.

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