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NBA Daily: Assessing The NBA’s Latest Suspensions

After the NBA made their decision with those involved in the Lakers-Rockets fight on Saturday, Matt John analyzes the consequences of everyone’s actions.

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You know something crazy went down when Lance Stephenson of all people tries to play peacemaker.

In case you’ve been completely out of the loop, the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets had themselves quite the brawl on Saturday night. It all started when Brandon Ingram was whistled for fouling James Harden, leading to an and-one. Flustered, Ingram shoved Harden then stared down the referee who separated him from Harden. Teammates quickly came over to calm Ingram down, but it was only a short time later until Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul came to blows. While players were trying to break up the fight, Ingram ran in and tried to sucker punch Paul while his back was turned.

Ingram, Rondo and Paul were all ejected from the game, which probably played a part in Houston prevailing. However, the last thing that people wanted to talk about was the final result. The topic on everyone’s mind was what was to come of the spat.

The focus, of course, was on Paul and Rondo’s fight. Paul at first appeared as the instigator after he pushed Rondo’s face with his fingers, but he claimed that Rondo spat in his face. Rondo denied the claim, which the Lakers supported, but thanks to the devoted guys over at NBA Twitter, it was confirmed that “Spitgate” was real.

Following hours of anticipation, the NBA finally handed out the punishments of those involved on Sunday afternoon. Paul was suspended for two games, Rondo for three games and Ingram for four games. The lengths of each suspension made shockwaves through NBA Twitter. Many believed Rondo could have been suspended for more, while Paul could have avoided suspension.

It doesn’t matter though because what’s done is done The NBA’s made their final decision, and there’s nothing we can do about that. What we can do is see how both this most recent fight and its aftermath affects everyone involved. That is the Rockets, the Lakers and the NBA itself.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets suffered the least damage from this. They didn’t initiate the scuffle between Ingram and Harden nor the one between Rondo and Paul. Paul was suspended for the least total games out of everyone who was in trouble. This matter will probably be swept under the rug for Houston in a matter of weeks, maybe even within days.

So what could possibly have hurt Houston from all of this? Their image. Ingram didn’t shove Harden because the reigning MVP did something dirty. He shoved him purely out of sheer annoyance. Ingram’s antics may have been immature, but Harden’s abilities to draw fouls – which are part of his genius – can get under people’s skin.

Ditto for Paul as well. Rondo’s no sweetheart, but Paul is notorious for both his trash talk and his reputation as a flopper. Rondo may have been the culprit behind SpitGate, but he only gets in altercations like this if he gets provoked. That does not justify him resorting to spitting on Paul, but whatever Paul said must have hit a nerve.

Bringing up Harden and Paul’s reputations for getting on players’ nerves is nothing new. The difference is that this time, they faced retaliation. Their opponent didn’t just bark. They bit. While it may have stemmed from Rondo’s well-documented rivalry with Paul, Rondo’s not the only one to have problems with CP3. No sir.

Incidents like this could persuade other enemies of those two to retaliate as well. Houston may be ready to take their lumps, and probably will embrace the label of being one of the league’s most hated teams. If their enemies decide to fight back though, that could lead to disastrous results.

Los Angeles Lakers

Even though it was Rondo whose name got caught up in the madness, it was Ingram who had the roughest night. At first glance, Ingram’s clash with Harden may have been something that just happened in the heat of the moment. Upon further review, the Rockets may have given Ingram a rough night.

This could mean that when Ingram shoved Harden, the foul call may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Instances like this show that Ingram has a lot to learn in the NBA beyond improving as a player. Veteran teams like Houston will take advantage of Ingram’s inexperience and his slender frame. Hopefully, he will prepare accordingly as he continues to get time in the NBA. He better, because in the postseason, that physicality will increase exponentially and that experience comes in handy.

As for Rondo, it can’t surprise anyone that he would do something like this. Rondo has gotten into fights with his opponents, his teammates, the referees and even his own coaches. Spitting on Paul is something else, but for Rondo, it was just like any other Saturday night. That wasn’t the most telling observation from the fight.

What was most telling was that LeBron protected Paul to help break up the fight. It’s a noble act since he and Paul are best buddies, but The King may regret that because he protected Rondo’s enemy.

NBA Twitter made light of this when it all went down. It is something to keep an eye on because Rajon Rondo can be your best friend just as much as he can be your worst enemy. Rondo can be the guy that can lead your team to the best result possible, and he can also reap the seeds of their destruction. This may not be anything long-term, but keep an eye on LeBron’s dynamic with Rondo throughout the season after this.

The NBA

Fun fact: Brandon Ingram’s suspension was the longest handed out by league over a violent act since Metta World Peace elbowed James Harden in the head back in 2012. That hasn’t stopped fans from thinking the punishments handed out may have been too light.

This isn’t about questioning the NBA itself for its ruling because it’s pointless. It’s more about the potential ramifications. Rajon Rondo not only spat on Chris Paul, but he connected a pretty good left hook into Paul’s face. Getting suspended three games for that could be seen as just a slap on the wrist. If that’s how other players see it, then it may encourage them to throw down if they’re prompted to.

The league has done its very best to stop its players from fighting. Compared to the late-70’s/early-80’s, the NBA is in a much better place now in regards to violence. If players think that the suspensions given to Ingram, Rondo, and Paul were minuscule, then violence could become more prominent. Both the NBA’s image and popularity have gradually gotten better over the past several years alone, so having a resurgence in violence would not be too welcome.

If it becomes a problem, then the NBA may have to hand out harsher suspensions in order to send a message.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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