Isaiah Thomas, Rajon Rondo ejected in bizarre beef involving Paul Pierce


Isaiah Thomas and Rajon Rondo were both ejected from Wednesday’s contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, something that stemmed from comments that Rondo made last month. The two scuffled towards the end of the first quarter before getting booted with double technical fouls assigned.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton was later tossed near the end of the second quarter after Kyle Kuzma was assessed a technical foul. Walton was apparently still upset at how the referees handled the Thomas ejection, and took out his frustrations after his team was penalized again.

Here’s how the beef began

In January, Thomas’ video tribute with the Boston Celtics turned into a minor controversy when it was scheduled for the same game that Paul Pierce’s jersey was to be retired. Pierce didn’t want to share the game with Thomas, and the Celtics ended up moving it with Thomas’ blessing. (Thomas was then traded, so it ultimately didn’t matter.)

Rondo was the point guard on the 2008 Celtics championship team, of course, and was asked about the verbal kerfuffle warred through the media. He had a different take on the whole situation. From

“What has he done?” asked Rondo, according to Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

”This is the Boston Celtics,” Rondo continued. “This isn’t the Phoenix Suns, no disrespect to any other organization, but you don’t hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?”

Wednesday was the first time that Thomas and Rondo faced each other on the court this season.

What happened leading to the ejections

Once Thomas entered the game, he and Rondo apparently started jawing. Per one report, Thomas said that Rondo was carried by the Big Three during the 2008 championship run. (This isn’t a huge surprise — one NBA player recently told me Thomas is the biggest trash talker in the league.)

Rondo turned the feud physical with a minor shot to Thomas’ head, which was called as an away-from-the-ball foul, leading to one free throw. Here’s that play.

Thomas and Rondo kept at it.

Rondo was somehow assessed a flagrant-one, while both players received technical fouls, according to the box score. Neither player had technicals coming into this play, so it’s not clear why either — especially Thomas — was ejected. Here’s how it looked in the official play by play.

It definitely looked like the referees ejected Thomas without any real reason, other than arguing with Rondo. There was grabbing and pushing on the inbounds play, but that happens on almost every inbounds play. A technical foul due to Thomas’ trash talking with Rondo could be explained, but it’s hard to see why he had to leave the game for it.

Luke Walton followed up with his own ejection

Clearly, you see why he was mad. Here’s Walton getting ejected, too.

All these initial calls are correct — Kuzma committed a foul, his excessive reaction often draws a technical foul, and Walton’s cursing at the referees earned him a warranted technical, too. That said, it’s not quite clear why Walton needed to be ejected — we don’t know what he said, but it definitely included not-too-nice curse words.

The Lakers and Pelicans play again on March 22. You’ve got to tune in now.

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