True to predictions, the Lakers were grossly undisciplined in a moment that mattered but the optics were all wrong. Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson were not agitators but bystanders (Beasley), or peacemakers (Stephenson). It was left to the immature, the veteran and the aggrieved to make LeBron James home debut a farce that will undoubtedly become a meme. The kid lost his mind. The veteran said he was spit on. The loner/teacher got in a punch to the face. And there it was, a hyped ESPN game, a first home game of a new era disintegrating into crumbs of either I told you so or Can we please grow up? At the end, fight or no fight, the Lakers shooting is atrocious, LeBron was disappointing in his home debut, and the Rockets defense is still garbage.
But back to the fight. You can sum it up as immaturity had its center stage moment. The question of what would happen when pressure and the Lakers kids meet in the middle, how would they handle the stress of the LeBron James expectations and media circus and insane attention, what Rajon Rondo compared to the Beatles blessing/curse, was answered.
Brandon Ingram who left college after one year and who is a quiet 21 year old still trying to develop a thin body that isn’t as thin but still has a ways to go, and whose competitive aggression is inconsistent- when to be a playmaker, when to be a scorer- could not control himself and looked like the young kid everyone warned LeBron about. Ingram lost his composure twice. First, when he shoved James Harden and then when he couldn’t control his base instinct to come back into the fray after the Rondo punch of Chris Paul. Ingram will take the brunt of the suspension. He started it. Then he lacked the discipline to walk away.
If you believe in a glass is half full way of seeing the Lakers-Rockets hot mess, then this is the best thing for the Lakers. Adversity, as LeBron likes to phrase it, in the second game of the season. Everyone’s fears have been realized and Magic Johnson hasn’t had his say in things yet and when he speaks to the team it won’t be pretty regardless of the sanitized soundbites.
Whenever something goes wrong, there is a beneficiary and Lonzo Ball had a lucky moment in a lot of lucky moments of his young life. Not only did he play exceptionally well which is a Lonzo habit after a poor performance- the kid has inner fortitude and grit, he doesn’t let the criticism get to him- he is the winner of the fight. Because on Monday against the no point guard Spurs, Lonzo will be the starter after Rondo is suspended by the league. If Lonzo plays well (a huge if) Luke Walton has a decision to make and he just may keep Lonzo as point guard number one. Even if he doesn’t, Rondo knows he has a very short leash on the job.
The Lakers are in a better spot than many with two point guards who can start. On Monday, Lonzo can show with back-to-back solid performances that he is not the first man out of town as many prophesized after the Portland game.
Kyle Kuzma wins as well and on two different levels. He guarded James Harden much of the night and was the recipient of the James Harden foul. On the court, Harden is a near ballet dancer clone, gifted in spatial relationships and angling his body. It is a thankless and often impossible task to contest his shot. He has to be defended differently than almost everyone else in a league of explosive athletes. But Kuzma, who was in college for three years, and who was underhyped, unlike Ingram, kept his composure, even during a couple of the phantom Harden calls. Kuzma’s maturity was a bright light and now he’ll be back in the starting lineup after Ingram’s suspension and like Lonzo, he may stay in the starting lineup.
It’s basic chemistry 101 that one action creates multiple reactions. Game two of a season doesn’t really matter except it reformulated the Lakers.
LeBron didn’t take control after the fight. Rondo didn’t have to punch Paul in the face but has probably been waiting to do it for years. Ingram is 21. The center did not hold except for the fact that JaVale McGee should be talked about as giving way more than the Lakers thought.
But the fight and not McGee’s dominance at the rim and Josh Hart getting to the cup whenever he wanted and LeBron’s lack of energy to begin his Lakers career will be remembered.
We always remember the car wreck.