We all agree the Lakers suspensions veer on the lighter side of things. Brandon Ingram probably should have gotten 10 games for starting the ruckus and then coming back to have the last word. Yes, the tape was analyzed deeper than the Zabruder film. Accidental spit from Rondo left his mouth and hit Paul in the face. Paul’s finger caused Rondo to go postal on him and Paul retaliated. Rondo should have gotten a longer suspension and would have if David Stern was running things.
Stern saw himself as judge, jury and executioner but then Stern ran a different league. He had Anthony Mason and Rasheed Wallace and Charles Oakley. He had some real tough dudes and not this fake tough that is penetrating the league today. The game has changed. The enforcers are gone and in their place are forwards jacking up threes. So the complexion of the league has changed. Adam Silver is more like big brother to the current crop of not wanting to really fight NBA-ers.
The conspiracy theorists rightly argue that if this had been any other team, let’s say the Timberwolves and Jimmy Butler, the suspensions would have been hard core. But it is the Lakers and they have LeBron James and that tilts everything. The LeBron orbit gets the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes , though, it is not the crime but who does the crime. We do live in two Americas. One for the haves. The other, the have nots.
But here is where the conspiracy crowd goes too far. They love to bring up Bobby Portis.
Portis famously got involved in a behind the scenes at practice fight with his teammate Nikola Mirotic. Portis hauled off and made mincemeat of Mirotic’s face, so much so he broke his jaw and it was initially thought Mirotic would need surgery. He was hospitalized and missed nearly two months.
The NBA fined Portis 8 games. Many are comparing the two crimes but they have nothing in common so the punishments are irrelevant comparisons. No one was bleeding on Saturday night. No one was hospitalized. None of the participants will have their season altered except for the games they will miss as punishment. No one suffered any ill effects except missing game checks. It was a fight that shouldn’t have happened but did, and the participants have to face consequences but no one was physically harmed.
Portis should have gotten an 8 game suspension because he hauled off and went Mike Tyson on his teammate. His teammate. He broke the brother code. Mirotic was hospitalized because of it. Teammates fight-Michael Jordan slapped Steve Kerr once upon a time- but teammates don’t send each other to the hospital. Portis crossed a bunch of lines with his devastating punch.
Silver set precedent with the Portis suspension. If you get 8 games for sending a teammate to the hospital because he may need surgery, then half of that is what is coming for a punch that does little damage besides hurting ego, feelings and basic disgust. And making you the target of a million memes.
Ingram got off light, everyone is in agreement. But then so did Portis. Ingram thought he would get more games than four and was relieved. Now he probably will have to battle Kyle Kuzma for the starting spot. Kuzma is the type of player to take advantage of Ingram’s mistake and steal his job. Kuz is a better scorer, has a high motor and as evidenced from Ingram’s head scratching behavior, Kuzma is more mature.
None of the suspensions are a deterrent to fighting. Adam Silver knows he doesn’t need a deterrent. This isn’t the Bad Boys era. These players want to talk trash but few walk the walk. Rondo and Paul had a history according to Doc Rivers.
“They’ve had their run-ins. I know at one point they both wanted to be the best point guard. There’s no love lost.”
Apparently always talking trash Rondo, in 2009, approached Paul when he was with the Hornets (Pelicans). Rondo bragged that he won a title and Paul had not. Paul, considered the best point guard of his generation, has been in 1 conference final and 0 NBA Finals in his nearly perfect career. It makes sense he’s salty and Rondo is one to pour salt into a wound.
On Saturday night, nearly a decade after Rondo’s taunt, the two went at it. It was a bad look but it wasn’t irredeemable, it wasn’t the worst thing on a basketball court- Malice at the Palace or Kermit Washington ruining Rudy Tomjanovich’s face- and thankfully it wasn’t Bobby Portis. No hospital needed.