What began as Brandon Ingram demonstrating frustration over being called for a foul quickly escalated and morphed into another layer for the contentious relationship between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul.
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After Ingram shoved James Harden and was hostile with an official, Lance Stephenson intervened to in effort to get cooler heads to prevail. However, behind him, Rondo and Paul began to exchange words.
That then led to the point guards throwing punches, and Ingram re-entering the picture with his own haymaker. Each of the three players were ejected. Ingram was then suspended four games, Rondo for three, and Paul received a two-game ban.
In the immediate aftermath, reports were Paul put his finger in Rondo’s eye in response to being spit on. The accusation was one Rondo and the Lakers denied to be true.
Now serving his suspension, Rondo maintained he did not spit on Paul and went into why he believes the situation is perceived as such, via ESPN:
“Of course, the NBA went with his side because I got three games and he got two,” Rondo told ESPN. “Everyone wants to believe Chris Paul is a good guy. They don’t know he’s a horrible teammate. They don’t know how he treats people. Look at what he did last year when he was in LA; trying to get to the Clippers locker room. They don’t want to believe he’s capable of taunting and igniting an incident.”
Initial camera angles of the fight did appear to support Rondo’s stance. However, a new view, which the NBA evaluated when deciding on punishment, did show some substance come from Rondo’s mouth. They determined that to be spit.
Rond vaguely addressed the matter after practice this week, instead opting to focus on serving his suspension and his return. When asked if he believed Rondo spit on Paul, Lakers head coach Luke Walton responded, “no.”
Paul was re-elected as president of the National Basketball Players Association in January 2017, marking the start of a new four-year term. While considered one of the league’s best personalities off the court, Paul’s reputation on it has taken somewhat of a hit over recent seasons.