Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James came back from his one-game suspension in a triumphant style, dropping season-high 39 points against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
James served the first suspension of his career after hitting Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart in the face a couple of days earlier. The now-infamous altercation led to the ejection of both players. Stewart also received a two-game suspension for his attempts to attack James in revenge.
The 36-year-old All-Star put on his best performance of the season in his first game after the incident took place, leading the Lakers to a much-needed win right before Thanksgiving. James took over late in the game, drilling three deep threes in the fourth quarter and overtime to secure a 124-116 victory.
Having done so, he then addressed the brawl with Stewart for the first time.
“What happened is there was a box-out on the free-throw line,” James said. “His elbow got kind of high, it got me — if you look, if you watch the film — it got me off-balanced a little bit and his elbow lifted my arm and I basically tried to swim move, swim down on him, on his arm and when I swung down on his arm, he got off balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face.
“And I knew right away. So, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head. So I went over to apologize to him, and obviously, you guys saw what happened after that. But definitely accidental. Just like the play last night on Russ, just like the Sabonis play tonight, accidental hit to the [face]. Definitely not that type of player so I hate to see that, what escalated after that.
“I didn’t think it warranted [a suspension]. I thought it warranted an ejection because of what happened after that. Having me, probably, still in the game and the excitement from the fans and what could possibly happen after that, obviously. But a suspension, I didn’t think it was warranted.
“But the league made that call and we’re here today.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called James’ suspension “unfortunate,” explaining that “LeBron is one of the classiest guys in the league.” Meanwhile, Anthony Davis said he was surprised by the punishment L.A.’s superstar received.
Davis: James isn’t a ‘dirty guy’
Davis came to James’s defense following the incident in the win over the Pistons. The 28-year-old All-Star insisted his teammate didn’t intend on hitting Stewart in the face.
“Everyone in the league knows LeBron’s not a dirty guy,” Davis said. “As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and told him ‘my bad, I didn’t try to do it.’”
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