After months of waiting, LeBron James finally made his debut with the Lakers in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Naturally, the energy at the Staples Center was electric — Lakers fans couldn’t help themselves.
While James was the main focus in the battle against the Houston Rockets, a fight late in the fourth quarter stole the attention away from his home debut — and resulted in three ejections.
With four minutes left in the game, Rockets guard James Harden drew a foul while driving to the hoop, making a layup over Lakers forward Brandon Ingram to put the Rockets up by 109-108. Ingram, though, didn’t like the call. The 21-year-old quickly shoved Harden in the back, drawing a technical foul.
While a scrum assembled in the lane, and Ingram still chirping, Lance Stephenson ran in, grabbed Ingram and walked him away from the situation — likely in an effort to de-escalate it.
Suddenly, with players spread out across the court, Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo and Rockets point guard Chris Paul were face to face in the lane. Paul could be seen pointing his finger into Rondo’s face, shoving him slightly. Rondo responded by throwing a punch, and Paul then threw two punches back.
Ingram, seeing what had happened, ran into the pile from across the court and threw a punch of his own. From there, a brawl ensued.
Ingram, Paul and Rondo were all ejected from the game after officials reviewed the incident. The three will likely face suspensions and fines from the league as soon as possible — since the Rockets play again on Sunday night.
Paul later said the incident started because Rondo had spit in his face. While that has yet to be seen on video, Paul can be seen wiping off his face right before the two started fight, Paul was still incredibly angry after the game, too, because a member of Rondo’s family apparently made “inappropriate” comments to his wife, Jada, in the stands after the fight, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony also confirmed after the game that there was a “spitting incident,” which he called “unacceptable.”
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Lakers officials are backing Rondo’s “contention that he didn’t spit” on Paul, while the Rockets are insisting that he did.
The Rockets held on to their slight lead after the fight to take the 124-115 win, spoiling James’ opener in Los Angeles and picking up their first win of the year.
Before the fight late in the game, Harden and Paul were dominating offensively — especially in the first half.