Lakers star LeBron James and Pistons youngster Isaiah Stewart were ejected from Sunday’s game in the third quarter following an on-court altercation and could face further punishment from the NBA league office.
James struck Stewart in the face while the two players were battling for position on a Jerami Grant free throw, opening up a large cut near Stewart’s right eye. The Pistons’ center, with blood streaming down his face, tried to go after LeBron and had to be held back by several teammates and coaches (video link). James was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul and Stewart was tossed for “multiple unsportsmanlike acts,” as our Dana Gauruder writes for The Detroit Free Press.
While it seems likely that James and Stewart will face fines, if not suspensions, for their actions, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said after the game that he didn’t believe Stewart should receive any additional penalties.
“He shouldn’t be facing anything,” Casey said, per Gauruder. “Not getting off the court in time, the league will have to decide on that. The man got eight stitches, or whatever the number of stitches it is, across his forehead. … He was upset, blood running down his face. I don’t see ramifications from the league from that standpoint, except for him just (not) leaving the court, maybe. I thought that’s why he got ejected out of the game. To me, that’s enough punishment.”
The Lakers and Pistons are both off until Tuesday, but if the NBA is going to assess fines and/or suspensions, an announcement will likely come at some point on Monday.
Here’s more on the fracas in Detroit:
- Anthony Davis said after the game that James didn’t elbow Stewart intentionally and that he wanted to apologize to the 20-year-old. “Everyone in the league knows LeBron’s not a dirty guy,” Davis said, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “In fact, when he knew he hit him, as soon as he did it, he looked back at him like, ‘Oh, my bad. I didn’t try to do it.'”
- Lakers guard Russell Westbrook also received a technical foul as part of the skirmish, since referee Scott Foster and his crew believed Westbrook was acting as “an escalator and not a peacemaker.” Westbrook didn’t realize he had been assessed a technical until after the game, writes McMenamin. “Why’d I get a tech? I didn’t know I had a tech. Wow. That’s interesting,” Westbrook said. “Well, you know, that’s just being Russell, I guess. When you’re Russell Westbrook, they just try to do anything, apparently. Well, whatever. … They had to put it on somebody. I’m the easiest person to throw s–t on. Why not me?”
- While there may be an outside perception that Stewart, who also had a minor scuffle with Blake Griffin earlier this season, is a troublemaker, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic contends that couldn’t be further from the truth. Casey agrees with that assessment. “I told him, ‘Don’t let this define who you are. It doesn’t define your game whatsoever. Keep your head (up) and don’t get a reputation afterward,'” Casey said after the game. “I feel for the young man because he’s such a competitor and plays so hard. He’s a great kid. He felt like he got a cheap shot across his brow. On the street, it would be a different story. It’s no reflection on who Isaiah Stewart is whatsoever.”
- The Lakers were down by 17 points following James’ ejection, but battled back without him in the fourth quarter for a victory. Bill Oram of The Athletic wonders if the comeback could be a turning point for a Lakers team that has been up and down so far this season.