WALTHAM, Mass. — Rajon Rondo was mostly subdued on the day after his dust-up with Kris Humphries, but he did crack one smile.
Rondo, who spoke with an NBA representative about an hour before practice began on Thursday afternoon, was asked if he worried that he might be issued a longer suspension or fine in light of two earlier ejections for run-ins with officials. In the league’s eyes, that could make Rondo a repeat offender.
“Did you say ‘repeat offender’?” Rondo replied. “Is this a trial?”
Actually, it sort of was. Rondo is more or less on trial as the league weighed further discipline for the incident late in the first half of Wednesday’s game, when a tussle spilled into the stands and Rondo, Humphries and Gerald Wallace were ejected. If the Celtics’ practice facility had been a courtroom, Rondo might have been described as having no remorse.
Shortly before the league handed down a two-game suspension, Rondo was unapologetic about his reaction to the foul by Humphries, which sent Kevin Garnett to the floor and drew a personal foul and a technical foul on the Brooklyn Nets forward. Rondo insisted he was simply coming to the defense of a teammate and scoffed at the notion that the scuffle elevated into a “fight” or “brawl.” He called it a “pushin’ war.”
“I think I play the game the right way,” Rondo said. “I’m not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, but I have no intention of hurting anybody out there. I go out there and compete every night. That’s how I play the game. I play the game hard and I play with an edge. I’m not a trash-talker. I felt one of our guys was disrespected and I retaliated, not in a bad way. It was just a shove which led to, I don’t know, what some guys might call a fight. No punches were thrown. It wasn’t a brawl. It was five guys out there on the court, breaking each other up.”
This is the third time Rondo has been ejected in the past 10 months. He received a two-game ban for tossing a ball at referee Sean Wright in February and was suspended one game for bumping Marc Davis in Game 1 of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Hawks. After watching a replay of Wednesday’s game, though, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he felt Rondo did not deserve a suspension. That was extremely wishful thinking on the part of Rivers, who now must prepare to face Portland and Milwaukee without his point guard.
Rondo was neither optimistic nor pessimistic. He participated in practice as though he planned to play in Friday’s game against the Trail Blazers, which turned out to be in vain. He also disputed the characterization that he was frustrated because the Celtics were losing by 16 points at the time, claiming “that foul made me do what I did.”
The league apparently saw Wednesday’s events as an isolated incident as well, rather than as the actions of a recidivist who cannot stop finding his way in front of the judge. Rondo reportedly received no additional fine on top of the forfeited salary and can be back on the floor next week against Minnesota.
While the dust was still settling on Wednesday night, some observers speculated that Rondo’s ”pushing war” could net him three-to-five. Apparently the NBA granted him early release for good behavior.