So, as it turns out, while NBA fans absolutely love insane stories about late-game chippiness spilling over into post-game beef, the NBA itself isn’t super into players from one team trying to bring the ruckus to the other team’s locker room.
On Monday night, several members of the Houston Rockets reportedly sought to vent their frustrations about a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in a highly contentious game by slipping through a back door at Staples Center into the Clips’ locker room. On Tuesday morning, an NBA spokesman said that the league plans to speak with players from both Houston and L.A. “to determine the specifics of late-game and postgame events involving the teams,” according to the Associated Press.
The investigation evidently began shortly after the incident itself, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
A rundown of the “tomfoolery,” for those who might be playing catch-up:
• With just under four minutes left in Monday’s game, and the Clippers holding an eight-point lead, Rockets guard Eric Gordon slices to the basket for a layup that would make it a two-possession game. Clippers forward Wesley Johnson soars in to pin the shot against the backboard, but appeared to do so late; replays would later clearly show that the ball had hit the glass before Johnson blocked it, meaning it should’ve been called a goaltend and the Rockets should’ve gotten two points. Instead: no call. Play on.
• As the Clippers bring the ball up the court, star forward Blake Griffin veers toward the Rockets’ sideline, appearing to bump Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni before posting up former teammate and Rockets point guard Chris Paul — making his first appearance against the Clippers after orchestrating a trade to Houston this summer to end the best run the Clips have ever had — for a layup, plus a foul, for a 3-point play that pushed L.A.’s lead to 11 with 3:34 to go.
• While an incensed Paul races over to the referee to argue that the foul came before Griffin’s shot, D’Antoni continues to air out Griffin for their interaction, appearing to proclaim it “[expletive]” and to lob at least one four letter word at the power forward. (“He hit me,” D’Antoni said after the game, according to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. “I didn’t appreciate it.”) Griffin acknowledged after the game that he responded in kind.
• That prompted Paul to get in Griffin’s face. That led Rockets forward Trevor Ariza to separate the two. That led to unpleasantries between Ariza and Griffin, with Ariza trying to stop Griffin from getting to the basket with just over a minute to go by grabbing onto whatever he could, earning a foul for tearing Blake’s compression tights.
As Griffin made his way into the paint, he delivered a little shoulder bump into Paul, who stumbled backward a bit. Hmm.
• Shortly thereafter, Griffin attempted to save a Clippers possession by throwing the ball off Gordon … like, really hard and up near his head:
• After Ariza had bumped Griffin following a foul shot, several members of the Clippers — most notably guard Austin Rivers, who’s sidelined by an Achilles tendon strain and was watching the festivities from the bench in a suit and a walking boot — talked trash to Ariza. He responded. Griffin didn’t take too kindly to that:
At that point, the refs had seen enough, deciding to chuck both Ariza and Griffin with 1:03 remaining and the Clippers up 113-100. The final 63 seconds passed largely without incident … but then, things got real interesting, as Ariza, Paul, recent Rockets acquisition Gerald Green and injured superstar James Harden made their way through a back corridor and “breached the entrance of the home team’s locker room” so that they might “confront” Austin Rivers and Griffin, according to Woj:
For a few fleeting moments, several Clippers dared the Rockets to come farther into the room, sources said. Security and team officials soon converged on the Rockets, pushing them out the door and back toward the visiting locker room, sources said. Ariza was described as the first one through the door, with Paul lingering in the back, witnesses told ESPN.
“It was classic NBA,” one Clippers witness told ESPN. “None of these guys were going to fight.”
SI’s Jenkins offers a slightly more charged version:
A hallway runs between the Clippers locker room and the visitors locker room, where players from opposing teams often see each other and catch up. According to a Rockets source, Ariza was waiting on Griffin, and when the game ended he charged from the hallway into the Clips locker room. When Rivers spotted Ariza near the entrance, according to the source, he said: “Let his b—– a– come in.” Ariza then turned his attention to Rivers.
ESPN reported that Ariza was flanked by three teammates—Harden, Paul and Gerald Green—but their purpose was unclear. “They were holding Trevor back,” the source said.
(Let the record reflect that Ariza has proven in the past to be more than willing to make a visit to the other guys’ locker room.)
Staples Center security reportedly brought Los Angeles police into the picture “to make sure the situation didn’t further escalate,” which was a development that TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal found absolutely hilarious:
While the smoke didn’t lead to full-fists-fire, both sides did continue to lick off a few shots after things settled down.
Paul said the Clippers should play not through old co-worker Griffin, but rather through Lou Williams, their “go-to guy,” who continued to bolster his surprising All-Star case with 31 points and nine assists in leading the Clips to victory on Monday. For his part, Griffin — who was dominant in his own right, pulverizing his way to 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists before getting the gate — just seemed pleased to have served as an agent of chaos:
Injured guard Patrick Beverley — who came over with Williams, energetic big man Montrezl Harrell, versatile forward Sam Dekker and a future first-round draft pick in the deal that sent Paul to the Rockets — couldn’t take part in the proceedings on the court, but he did take the opportunity to get involved with some after-the-fact shade:
From the sound of things, the Rockets are looking forward to getting a chance to resume hostilities with the Clips when they square off again next month:
“They were talking crazy throughout the game,” said the Rockets’ Gordon, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “Yeah, they were playing well. We just didn’t like how it ended. The refs let them talk crazy until something had to happen, let guys on our own go out there. We’re not going to stand by with somebody out there like that. Blake Griffin, he’s talking crazy. All those guys were talking big. Things happen. We’re going to remember it, though.”
One thing we’re going to remember: the role that Houston center Clint Capela reportedly played in the post-game plan to get to the Clippers’ locker room:
As the drama unfolded later, Rockets center Clint Capela walked down the main corridor and banged on the front entrance to the Clippers’ locker room, league sources said. Soon, a Clippers staff member opened the door and looked up to see Capela, a formidable 6-foot-10 figure, standing in the doorway.
She shut the door in Capela’s face. For a few moments, Capela stood there, unsure how to proceed. Before long, Capela walked back to the Rockets’ locker room, showered and headed for the bus with the rest of the Rockets.
I’m sure the NBA will uncover more information about how everything went down during an investigation that will certainly lead to punishment in the form of fines and possibly suspensions. All I ask, though: Please don’t tell us that the Capela thing didn’t happen. I’m enjoying the image of the shot-blocking Swiss national drawing the short straw, and being sent out to distract everybody while his veteran teammates try to catch the Clips off-guard with the ol’ banana in the tailpipe, far too much to be disabused of the notion.