The Los Angeles Lakers grabbed a critical win over the Detroit Pistons behind an impressive fourth-quarter comeback. However, the focus sits directed toward LeBron James‘ one-game suspension stemming from his altercation with Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart.
Unsurprisingly, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal strongly backed Stewart’s actions.
LeBron James receives a one-game suspension after Isaiah Stewart incident
The Lakers scrapped out a much-needed fourth-quarter comeback win over the Pistons, but James’ suspension engulfs the franchise.
The 17-time All-Star received the first suspension of his NBA career after his altercation with Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart. The incident happened during the third quarter as Jerami Grant attempted a free throw, leading the four-time league MVP to battle for rebounding position against Stewart.
James chose to swing his left arm with a closed fist backward and caught the 20-year-old flush in his face, resulting in a cut above his right eye. Stewart immediately confronted the star forward, and the 36-year-old reportedly attempted to apologize for his actions.
Despite that, the tension rose further, necessitating players, coaching staff, and arena security to ease the matter. Stewart’s aggression only increased as blood flowed down his face, leading him to attempt to charge James twice.
On Monday, the NBA took swift action by suspending the Lakers forward for one game without pay, costing him $284,004 for “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face, and initiating an on-court altercation.”
Meanwhile, Stewart received a two-game ban without pay, forfeiting $45,202 ($22,601 per contest) due to “escalating an on-court altercation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing LeBron James in an unsportsmanlike manner.”
It didn’t take long for Shaq to offer his two cents on the matter.
Shaquille O’Neal vigorously backs Isaiah Stewart retaliating against LeBron James: ‘If someone hits you in the face you got to hit them back or act like you’re going to hit them back’
Before the Lakers faced the New York Knicks on Tuesday night, the LeBron James-Isaiah Stewart incident was first on the docket for TNT’s Inside the NBA crew.
Reggie Miller, who wasn’t a stranger to on-court altercations throughout his Hall of Fame career, voiced that he understood why the league responded the way it did.
“I understand where the league is coming from,” Miller said. “If you look at the tape closely, I really do feel that it wasn’t intentional by LeBron because what he was really trying to do was get Stewart off of him. He was aiming for the shoulder/chest area and just happened to crack him. It’s definitely a flagrant 2.”
Shaquille O’Neal agreed with Miller but took it a step further by stating he backed Stewart’s reaction to being hit in the face.
“I agree with Reggie,” O’Neal said. “LeBron’s been in the league, what, 18, 17 years, he’s never been that guy,” O’Neal said. “When you’re going strength against strength, and you’re stronger, sometimes you gotta put that extra ‘uhhh’ in it. And as he put the ‘uhhh’ into it. The guy got hit in the face.
“Now Stewart reacted like he was supposed to react. You hit somebody in the face, I want to fight you. … Somebody hit you in the face, you either got to hit him back or act like you want to hit him back. It’s only two options.”
O’Neal’s response shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as he embraced that no-nonsense approach to the game. Nonetheless, Stewart’s actions resulted in him losing a significant chunk of change.
Lakers have more concerning issues to resolve
James’ one-game suspension aside, the Lakers have more significant issues to address.
Los Angeles is stumbling through the early portion of the 2021-22 schedule, creating growing outside concerns regarding the team’s NBA title chances. The revamped roster has struggled to find any semblance of consistency.
Injuries to James, Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn, and Austin Reaves have heavily impacted the Lakers, but it’s much more than that. Los Angeles is dealing with other discouraging matters such as its lack of cohesion defensively and lackluster play in the third quarter, holding a -100 in the period. That ranks second-worst in the league only to the Houston Rockets (-103), who have a 1-16 record.
The Lakers’ issues go further than James’ absence as they have looked nowhere near a championship contender. The continued struggles have also led to blame being placed prominently at the feet of head coach Frank Vogel.
Los Angeles possesses the benefit of still having 60-plus regular-season games left to play. However, the clock is ticking as it tries to figure it out.