LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo remains steadfast that he did not intentionally spit at Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul on Saturday, which led to a brawl and suspensions for both players and Lakers forward Brandon Ingram.
"This is the only time I'm going to address this," Rondo told ESPN on Tuesday. "I had a mouthpiece in my mouth and I exasperated because I was about to tell him to 'get the out of here.'
"Look at my body language [in the video]. My hands on my hips. I turn away for a second. Look at Eric and [Carmelo Anthony] in the video. If they saw me spit, they would have turned their face up or something. They had no reaction."
The Rockets reportedly sent video to the league that, when zoomed in, appeared to show Rondo expelling a small bit of spit at Paul, who responded by shoving his fingers in Rondo's face before the latter threw a punch and both players started swinging.
Paul was suspended for two games and Rondo for three, while Ingram - who started the testy exchange by pushing James Harden and arguing with a referee - was suspended four games.
"Of course, the NBA went with [Paul's] side because I got three games and he got two," Rondo told ESPN. "Everyone wants to believe Chris Paul is a good guy. They don't know he's a horrible teammate. They don't know how he treats people. Look at what he did last year when he was in L.A.; trying to get to the Clippers' locker room. They don't want to believe he's capable of taunting and igniting an incident. He comes out and says I spit and the media sides with that."
Ryan Hollins played with Chris Paul for two seasons in the NBA. I asked Hollins what he thought of Paul as a teammate, given the recent negative comments from Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) October 23, 2018
"He has some growing to do," Hollins said of Paul. "Everything that glitters ain't gold." pic.twitter.com/OYWpM6LmXN
Rondo was referring to a game last January when Paul, in his first return to Staples Center since playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, reportedly led teammates into the Clippers' locker room after the game following testy exchanges on the court before the final whistle. Coincidentally, Saturday's brawl also happened at Staples Center. Paul called his suspension for the recent incident "tough." "Somebody spit on you, you know," he told ESPN. "Play this long and that has never happened, but it is what it is."
Rondo remained adamant that he did not spit, suggesting Paul made up the accusation to justify his actions. "Y'all are playing me with these tricks or these mind games, tampering with the evidence," Rondo said. "Ain't no way that I intentionally spit on you with my body language the way it was.
"One, if I spit on you, bottom line, there is not going to be no finger-pointing. If you felt that I just spit on you, then all bets are off. Two, look at my body language. If I spit on you on purpose, I'm going to be ready for a man to swing on me. You ain't going to have my hands on my hip and my head look away at someone if I spit on them.
Chris Paul & Rajon Rondo’s beef started back in 2009 when Rondo told Paul:— Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) October 21, 2018
“I’ve got a ring, and you're never gonna win one."
Well: it’s 2018.what’s changed?! #Lakers #Rockets pic.twitter.com/qT7sADQ11t
"After that goes down, within 30 seconds, you run and tell the sideline reporters that I spit on you? If I spit on you, you are trying to get to me. You not trying to make up a story so you can look like a good guy. It makes no sense to me. I was going to let it rest. I wasn't going to say much. But now I have kids and I teach my kids to speak up for themselves and don't let the world tell their story."
Paul served the first game of his suspension Sunday night, missing a loss at the Clippers, and he'll also sit out when the Rockets play the Jazz on Wednesday before returning for a home game against the Clippers Friday.
Rondo and Ingram both sat out Monday's overtime loss to the Spurs and will miss games at Phoenix on Wednesday and hosting Denver on Thursday. Rondo will return for a trip to San Antonio on Saturday, and Ingram will return Monday at Minnesota.
Field Level Media (Reuters)