At shootaround on Saturday morning, LeBron James said he, the Los Angeles Lakers and fans alike were all looking forward to the home opener of the 2018-19 NBA season. That it came against the Houston Rockets and James’ good friends Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul made it all the more intriguing.
Want to get your content COMPLETELY AD FREE? Follow us on Apple News!
James didn’t anticipate any sort of unusualness in seeing Anthony come off the bench for the first time in his career. And while the topic was never broached because it certainly was not on anyone’s minds, James presumably didn’t foresee Paul being at the center of a brawl.
But that was the case late in the fourth quarter when Paul and Rajon Rondo exchanged words and eventually punches. Paul’s representatives asserted the situation escalated because of Rondo spitting.
Rondo’s camp has vehemently denied as much, but the NBA is reportedly scouring through video that may prove Paul to be correct, and the league could take into account Rondo’s history when levying a suspension.
James immediately pulled Paul away as punches began to fly, but appeared disinterested in discussing the melee. “I didn’t see anything,” James said when asked about the fight. I mean, I just was trying to calm things down. That’s all. Play basketball.”
The Lakers were trailing the Rockets by one point when the fight broke out, and the wound up suffering a 124-115 loss, with momentum seemingly working against them. “We were right there. It was a one-point game and we had an opportunity to win the game.”
Lance Stephenson, who also attempted to play peacemaker by walking Brandon Ingram away after he shoved James Harden and got confrontational with an official, accused the Rockets of purposely baiting the Lakers. James wasn’t comfortable broaching that possibility.
He also didn’t feel it necessary to speak with the Lakers over the incident. “Coach said what he had to say. We’re going to come in tomorrow and get better,” James said.