A brief review of the Lakers-Rockets scuffle that spoiled LeBron’s LA debut

By Klyde Manansala | Photo from Jose Sanchez

It was supposed to be an eventful night underlining the much-awaited debut of LeBron James in the Staples Center.

The arena was teeming with people wearing #23 from all angles, a positive sign that thousands of Lakers fans may have finally submitted to the reality that the player they used to despise is now an integral part of the Lake Show.

The opening chapter of the LABron era, as expected, fleetingly made headlines across the world. But it wasn’t about his thunderous dunk coming off a baseline pass from Javale McGee. It wasn’t about his elbow jumper that marked his first points for the storied franchise. Instead, it was about the fists that started to fly in the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets who were up 109-108.

The whole fray started with James Harden complaining for not getting a three-point play after Brandon Ingram fouled him. Ingram then shoved Harden and started jawing at him for no apparent reason, which resulted in a technical foul. The whistle wasn’t enough to make Ingram refrain from talking trash, which then led Lance Stephenson to calm him down.

But Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul were already at the peak of their own version of How-To-Spoil-LeBron’s-Lakers-Debut: Near the restricted area, the two guards were confronting each other. Paul lifted his finger on Rondo’s face. Rondo retaliated and threw a left hook that shattered Paul’s face. Paul countered with an uppercut. And Ingram re-entered the scene as he came rushing from beyond the arc to throw a haymaker directed to Paul. James eventually held Paul and pulled him away from the brawl as the Rockets’ guard continued on shouting “He spit on my face!”

Watch the entire brawl here:

Despite the evidence thrown at the Lakers’ point guard, Rondo denied the allegations about him spitting on Paul as the rest of his squad supported his plea. But the Rockets argued it was the spit that provoked Paul to finger-point at Rondo’s face and further supported their claim by submitting a slow-mo and a clearer footage of the entire scene, which could have proved that the whole indictment against the Rondo was indeed true:

Yesterday, the the league handed the verdict—with Ingram sitting out four games, Rondo suspended for three games, and Paul out for two games. The timing couldn’t be any worse.

Yes, these players were only suspended for a couple of games and a sluggish start doesn’t determine a team’s fate for the rest of the year, but it could very well impact momentum at the start of the regular season. Early November 2017, 11 of the 16 teams who made the post-season were listed in the Eastern and Western Conference’s top eight teams.

Just today, the Lakers put up a huge fight against the San Antonio Spurs after LeBron sent the game into overtime via a cold-blooded trey. They erased an eight-point lead and that whole offensive attack was orchestrated by none other than the king himself. They had a huge run in the extended period and even held onto a seven-point cushion after a Lonzo Ball three, 137-130, but the Spurs was able to mount a comeback as Patty Mills drilled the jumper for the game winner, 143-142.

That loss marks LeBron’s first 0-3 start since 2004. With Rondo and Ingram gone for a couple more games, the Lakers have no choice but to expand the time period in experimenting rotations with players like Johnatan Williams (who made his debut and came up with huge plays in the twilight zone) and Svi Mykhailiuk, probably their most accurate sniper, filling the void left by their Rondo and Ingram for now.

The Lakers lost another game, but Kyle Kuzma’s game-high 37 points and Josh Hart’s 20 and 10 statline is a good indication that LeBron shouldn’t worry about his supportive cast that much while Rondo and Ingram are out.