A day after he retaliated for a hard foul that sent Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett crashing to the court, Rajon Rondo was defending himself.
First in a call with the NBA office and then after practice with reporters, Rondo said on Thursday that he didn’t think he should be suspended for his role in a scuffle with the Brooklyn Nets that resulted in three ejections, including his own.
Rondo’s opinion ultimately didn’t matter, though, as he was suspended by the NBA for two games. He will miss Friday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sunday’s against the Bucks in Milwaukee.
Rondo was thrown out of Wednesday night’s 95-83 loss to the Nets in the second quarter when he shoved Kris Humphries into the courtside seats after the Brooklyn forward knocked Garnett to the floor with a hard foul. What Rondo called a ”pushing war” ensued, and Humphries and Nets forward Gerald Wallace were also ejected.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers noted that there were no punches thrown — or at least none caught on camera — but the scuffle did go into the stands.
”The one Rondo understands is he can’t allow himself to be taken out of the game. And he did,” Rivers said. ”I don’t think he went in there thinking, ‘We’re going to get in a fight.’ … It’s snap, it’s quick, and it could happen to any of us, and it has happened to me.”
Rondo was suspended twice last season after losing his temper — once when he threw a ball at a referee, and again during the playoffs when he chest-bumped an official. But, just as he did after those incidents, he insisted that he had learned his lesson about taking himself out of the game.
”I know I have to be out there with my teammates. That’s the thing about it,” he said. ”But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn’t try to start a fight.”
Rondo is averaging 12.9 points and 12.9 assists per game.
”I play the game the right way. I’m not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, but I have no intention of hurting anybody,” Rondo said. ”I go out there and compete every night, and that’s how I play the game. I play the game hard; I play the game with an edge. I’m not a trash-talker. I don’t play the game dirty. I play hard and when one of my guys are disrespected, I retaliated.”