Lakers star LeBron James and Piston’s center Isaiah Stewart were suspended from Sunday’s game in the third quarter. They were suspended because of an on-court conflict 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.
Stewart, with blood streaming down his face, tried to go after LeBron and had to be held back by several teammates and coaches. 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. Los Angeles, Lakers, big man Dwight Howard empathized with Isaiah Stewart after the Detroit Pistons center’s conflict with LeBron James on Sunday.
Howard told GQ’s Tyler R. Tynes that he didn’t think Stewart was in the right but that his reaction was understandable in the circumstances.
“In his defense, you gotta stand up for yourself. Now, was it the right time and place to do that? No. But you can’t tell somebody how to react in a moment like that. Now, he also did a lot. He was enraged and upset. I can’t say what he did was right, but I do understand it. Somebody hit me in my mouth and made me bleed? I’d be pissed off too. A little pride and ego probably kicked in too: you in front of 20,000 people, you bleeding from ya lip and ya eye, you don’t ever want to look like that. I get most of why his reaction was the way it was.”
James didn’t want to communicate with the reporters immediately after the game. Lakers star Anthony Davis addressed the matter and said LeBron didn’t mean any ill intent and attempted to apologize to Stewart. On-court confrontations used to be more commonplace in the NBA. The Pistons built their reputation on their physical play during their “Bad Boys” era.
Stewart’s charge at James probably would’ve been forgotten shortly after the game. The league has largely legislated fights out altogether, though, especially in the wake of the Malice at the Palace. That left many to wonder what kind of punishment they’ll be facing.
The NBA is waiting for Howard’s view on the matter for the most part because it didn’t drop the hammer on Stewart. He drew a two-game suspension. While James was forced to miss Los Angeles’ 106-100 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Both players will be available when Detroit and Los Angeles meet at Staples Center on Sunday.