By Mukwuzi Joseph
LeBron James was ejected from the Los Angeles Lakers-Detroit Pistons game after drawing blood on Isaiah Stewart’s face when they fought for a rebound on Sunday night.
James’ left elbow and hand appeared to make contact with Stewart above the neck, sending the Detroit center into a rage. Stewart had to be held back more than once, keeping him separated from James.
Stewart, who was called for a foul before James made contact, was also ejected from the game early in the third quarter after being assessed two technical fouls for his role in the fray. James was called for a Flagrant 2 foul. Lakers guard Russell Westbrook was assessed a technical after the officials reviewed the play and its fallout, determining he was an “escalator,” while there was pushing, shoving and trash talking.
James and Stewart were not made available for comment after the game.
Anthony Davis of the Lakers praised players, coaches and Pistons security for keeping the peace.
“Everybody did a great job trying to deescalate the situation,” Anthony said after the Lakers beat the Pistons 121-116. “You never want it to get to that point like 17 years ago.”
Then, not far away, the scene was much different.
A cup was tossed from the stands in Detroit on an infamous night in November 2004, triggering perhaps the worst brawl in US sports history when a melee with the Pistons and Indiana Pacers spilled into the stands. During Sunday’s game against the Lakers, former Pistons Ben Wallace and Rip Hamilton, who had courtside seats, were close to the latest fracas.
Stewart’s face was covered with blood after he and James were trying to get position for a rebound off a free throw. James appeared to attempt to apologize to Stewart as he lay on the court, but the 20-year-old center tried to charge toward his opponent.
“Everyone in the league knows LeBron isn’t a dirty guy,” Davis said. “As soon as he did it, he looked back and told him, ‘My bad.’”
Stewart broke free more than once and appeared to be running into a tunnel that potentially provided a path toward the Lakers’ bench.
“I don’t think James is a dirty player, but Stew cut his eye,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “He felt like he had been cheap-shotted across the brow. I’m not even sure he knew who hit him.”
Earlier this season, Stewart faced off with former teammate Blake Griffin of the Brooklyn Nets after they were tangled up during a game.
“He needs to just keep his head and not get a reputation,” Casey said.