Lakers forward LeBron James and Piston centre Isaac Stewart have been suspended by the NBA. James was handed a one-match suspension while Stewart was suspended for two games.
The suspension means the Lakers will be without James for the game at the Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.
The altercation started when both players were jostling for space as a free throw was being taken. James swung his hand and hit Stewart on the face with a closed fist. The hit left the centre bleeding and enraged, causing him to run at James. However, he was unable to get to James as their teammates and security quickly stepped in.
James was fined for “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation.” according to the NBA’s release. Stewart was given a two-game suspension for his unsportsmanlike and continued attempt to get at James and escalate the situation. He appeared to be trying to recreate the Malice at the Palace, which incidentally, involved the Pistons.
After a review of the play, officials called James for a flagrant-2 foul and an automatic ejection. Stewart was removed after receiving two technical fouls, while Russell Westbrook received one.
After the game, James did not speak to the media, but teammate Anthony Davis told reporters, “Everyone in the league knows LeBron is not a dirty guy.”
When James realised he hit Stewart the way he did, Davis recalled, he wanted to apologise, but the Pistons big man charged at him instead.
“We’re not promoting violence. I’m not promoting violence. Our security and their security did a hell of a job,” Davis added.
Prior to the incident with Stewart, James had only been ejected once in his career. It was at a Cleveland Cavaliers game in November 2017, for shouting at an official when he was not given a foul while driving to the lane against the Miami Heat.
Before being dismissed against the Pistons, James had 10 points, five assists, and one rebound, while Stewart had four points, one rebound, and one assist.
As reported, without James, the Lakers stormed back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pistons 37-17 to win 121-116.