LOS ANGELES (AP) — Just three games into LeBron James’ tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, they were missing two suspended starters when they faced the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
Although nobody thought James’ time on the West Coast would be boring, Brandon Ingram is sorry for his role in getting this season off to a weird start.
Ingram is also grateful he received only a four-game suspension for his role in the Lakers’ brawl with the Houston Rockets. The normally mild-mannered forward confronted referee Jason Phillips, shoved James Harden and threw punches at Chris Paul.
“Well, it was better than we expected,” Ingram said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround. “I’m happy it’s only four. But I know I’ve got to control my emotions a little bit better. ... I thought it would be more than four, but I’m happy that it’s at least four.”
Rajon Rondo also began his three-game suspension two days after spitting and punching in his altercation with Paul, a longtime rival.
James was a peacemaker in the drama when he pulled away Paul, his good friend. The three-time NBA champion shrugged off any deep analysis of the brawl and his role in it, attributing everything to a temporary flaring of emotions with no bigger significance for his relationship with the Lakers or Rondo.
“All I cared about was trying to get the thing over with so we could get back to the game,” James said.
“That’s all that was on my mind at the end of the day. Just trying to separate the whole altercation, help the referees out.”
When asked if his friendship with Paul made it strange to be on the other team during the scrap, James only laughed.
“No, it actually — we’re not friends anymore,” he said with a smirk.
Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball took the spots of Ingram and Rondo in the starting lineup against the Spurs.
Rondo declined to talk about his role in the scuffle that broke out late in his first home game with his new team. The Lakers already spoke about the conflict in a team meeting, he said.
“Everyone knows who I am on my team, and I think they still respect me for what I do and what I bring to this team,” Rondo said.
Ingram was more forthcoming about his actions, which began with his frustration over a foul called against him as he tried to stop an aggressive drive by Harden, one of the NBA’s most maddening players to guard.
“It’s my full responsibility,” Ingram said. “I think I’m the one that caused the action, and I’m going to take full responsibility for every action that I did. One hundred percent that I was wrong for my teammates, but I also stepped up for my teammates, and that’s what I want to do 10 times out of 10.”
Ingram shoved Harden in frustration — and when he got a technical foul, he got in Phillips’ face. Teammates got him away from the drama, but when Rondo and Paul threw down, Ingram ran back down the court and jumped into the fight with punches for Paul, including one deemed by the league to be “extremely aggressive.”
Ingram knows he was wrong, but he also doesn’t regret everything about it.
“I think I seen five Rockets players and two of our guys,” Ingram said. “That’s what made me go back. ... It was a physical game. I think all in all, I think if they’re going to do a couple of things, we had to have the aggressiveness and the confidence and ability to fight back, so that’s what we did.”