The Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a much-needed win on Sunday afternoon by edging out the Detroit Pistons. However, the focus became fixated on the physical altercation between LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart that led to ejections. With James facing a potential suspension, Anthony Davis quickly squashed any negative notions concerning his teammate’s reputation.
LeBron James ejected after elbowing Isiah Stewart
Sunday’s matchup between the Lakers and Pistons quickly turned sideways after a physical on-court altercation between James and Stewart.
The incident occurred in the third quarter with Jerami Grant shooting a free throw as the Lakers star battled for rebounding position with Stewart. James chose to swing his left arm with a closed fist backward and connected with Stewart’s face.
The two players quickly engaged and had to be separated. Stewart’s face became covered in blood due to a cut over his right eye, creating a more significant emotional reaction and leading to an aggressive attempt to move past his teammates and get to James.
Stewart tried to charge at James a second time, but arena security and each team’s coaching staff prevented it from escalating any further. After the contest, Anthony Davis strongly defended his teammate’s reputation.
Anthony Davis squashes LeBron James slander: ‘Everyone in the league knows LeBron is not a dirty guy’
The Lakers snapped their losing streak, but the bigger story after the contest stayed fixated on the James-Stewart situation.
Anthony Davis didn’t waste any time addressing the matter and quickly defended the four-time league MVP.
“Everyone in the league knows LeBron is not a dirty guy,” Davis said in his postgame press conference. “He accidentally hit [Stewart], and as soon as he did, he said to him, ‘My bad, I didn’t try to do that.’ I don’t know what [Stewart] was trying to do, but I know nobody on our team one through 15 was having it. We were protecting our brother. I have never in 10 years seen a player try to do that since I have been playing.”
The incident warranted frustration, but Stewart let his emotions get the best of him by attempting to charge at James twice. The Lakers were certainly not going to allow the Pistons big man to get to the 36-year-old. Los Angeles handled the situation as best as possible, preventing it from escalating any further than Stewart’s actions.
Over James’ nearly two-decade career, he’s held a strong reputation for avoiding those types of plays. However, he did engage in questionable actions last January against the Philadelphia 76ers after he pushed star big man Joel Embiid in the air, leading him to fall hard on his back. James faced immediate backlash, but there isn’t much outside that to warrant a dirty label.
Beyond that, the Lakers are now facing the possibility that James will face league punishment for his actions.
LeBron James likely faces league punishment
The fallout from the James-Stewart incident will quickly shift to league punishment.
James’ actions initiated the situation, regardless of whether there was any ill intent. He swung a closed fist at Stewart, seemingly expecting it to hit him in the chest. In other words, James apparently intended to hit the Pistons’ big man — but not in the face.
The only mystery at this point is how much time James will miss. The closest comparison is JR Smith’s actions in Game 4 of the 2015 playoffs series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Smith took a similar backward swing that connected with Jae Crowder’s face, resulting in a two-game suspension.
The league may use that situation as the primary guideline to determine the extent of the punishment. Nonetheless, the Lakers will need to prepare to be without James for the next couple of games.
Los Angeles will play the New York Knicks on Tuesday, followed by the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. The Lakers then head home on Friday to take on the Sacramento Kings and have another matchup against the Pistons on Sunday.
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