When the Los Angeles Lakers returned to practice on Monday for the first time since the NBA handed out suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram for their roles in a brawl against the Houston Rockets, Rondo was not talkative about the incident. Tuesday was different.
Rondo spoke to ESPN LA about the NBA claiming he had spat on Chris Paul, instigating the fight. As had been the case before the extra punishments were given, Rondo denied the allegations:
“This is the only time I’m going to address this,” Rondo told ESPN on Tuesday. “I had a mouthpiece in my mouth and I [was] exasperated because I was about to tell him to ‘get the [expletive] out of here.’
“Look at my body language [in the video]. My hands on my hips. I turn away for a second. Look at Eric [Gordon] and Melo [Carmelo Anthony] in the video. If they saw me spit, they would have turned their face up or something. They had no reaction.”
Rondo was suspended three games by the NBA. Ingram received a four-game suspension while Paul received only two.
Rondo did not leave the conversation as clearing his name, however, as the Lakers point guard took the opportunity to bash his longtime rival:
“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 L.A.; trying to get to the Clippers’ locker room. They don’t want to believe he’s capable of taunting and igniting an incident.
” … He comes out and says I spit and the media sides with that.”
“One, if I spit on you, bottom line, there is not going to be no finger-pointing. If you felt that I just spit on you, then all bets are off. Two, look at my body language. If I spit on you on purpose, I’m going to be ready for a man to swing on me. You ain’t going to have my hands on my hip and my head look away at someone if I spit on them. After the [expletive] goes down, within 30 seconds, you run and tell the sideline reporters that I spit on you? If I spit on you, you are trying to get to me. You not trying to make up a story so you can look like a good guy. It makes no sense to me.
“I was going to let it rest. I wasn’t going to say much. But now I have kids and I teach my kids to speak up for themselves and don’t let the world tell their story.”
Rondo, who has a history of butting heads with teammates and coaches, effectively created a real-life Spider-Man meme by criticizing Paul. That said, there have been plenty of anecdotal references to Paul’s controlling behavior on teams while his reputation has mostly stayed clean as he continues to lead the players’ union.
None of the three players involved in the fight were exactly right to do what they did. No one knows if Rondo really intentionally spat on Paul but it seems like this will be hanging over the duo’s already visceral relationship for some time.
The Lakers and Rockets next play on December 13th in Houston.