The suspensions delivered by the NBA to players for the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers could have been – and should have been – longer.
No one – outside of the participants involved – would have argued had the NBA suspended Lakers forward Brandon Ingram eight games, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo five games and Rockets guard Chris Paul four instead of four, three and two for their roles in an on-court altercation that involved each player throwing at least one punch.
Both teams were lucky the suspensions weren’t longer.
Since 2010, the average length of suspension for a punch thrown has been one or two games, and by that precedent, the NBA did issue longer suspensions, at least for Rondo and Ingram, who escalated the incident with their actions.
NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe defended the suspensions Sunday against calls for a harsher punishment for the players.
Rondo threw multiple punches, the NBA determined he spit at Paul, an egregious offense in any setting. Paul reacted, and Ingram lost his composure, throwing a wild punch at a player who wasn’t looking. VanDeWeghe called that dangerous and unacceptable. The conversation between league officials and Ingram reinforced that in specific terms.
NBA suspends Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Brandon Ingram for roles in Lakers-Rockets brawl
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The 0-2 Lakers are particularly lucky. For a team with LeBron James and trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, the Lakers’ margin for error is small, especially in the deep Western Conference.
The boneheaded antics of Rondo and Ingram have the potential to cost the Lakers in the playoff race, and it happened in the second game of the season. The Lakers announced Monday that Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma will start in their stead. Let’s see what happens in the games Rondo and Ingram – both key contributors – miss. It could be the difference between a higher playoff seed and a lower playoff seed, or worse, the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.
Los Angeles’ next four games are against San Antonio (twice), Phoenix and Denver.
Last season, just three games separated spots 3-9 in the Western Conference. Making the playoffs in the West is difficult, and it’s no guarantee the Lakers get in, even with James. These next four games, even in a long season, already were important for the Lakers as they try to figure out how to win with James, younger players with talent and veterans. They’re even more important now.
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