With a confident look in his eyes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stepped up to shoot the technical-foul free throw for the Lakers in the second quarter of their home opener against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Saturday night.
It was that kind of night for him and it’s been that way for Caldwell-Pope from the exhibition season through his first two games with the Lakers.
Before LeBron James got announced to the roar of a home crowd for the first time as a Laker on Saturday night, the man with more points than anyone ever to play in the NBA walked down the aisle between the first and second rows to his seat.
Phones were in the air, snapping photos and filming videos as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar strolled by, but hardly anyone was thinking about the 38,387 points he scored in his career. No, the Lakers fans at Staples Center were more peeved with the big man’s most recent block.
Even though Abdul-Jabbar is immortalized in a statue outside of Staples Center, he was just a large, moving barrier between those cellphones and LeBron James, who was on the court, merely warming up.
On the night LeBron James introduced his game to Los Angeles in earnest, a fight on the floor stole the show.
With 4:13 remaining in the Lakers’ home opener Saturday against Houston, a foul on Brandon Ingram sparked an absolute melee, the kind rarely seen in NBA games these days.
stood over referee Jason Phillips and shouted at him before Lance Stephenson rushed over to pull him away. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul stood inches away from each other’s faces. Paul reached forward to poke Rondo in the face, Rondo punched him in his, and Paul fired back. Ingram ran from across the court to throw a punch too.
James Harden was fouled on a transition layup, which triggered some words and eventually punches.
Brandon Ingram shoved Harden after the foul call. Players were separated, but Chris Paul got in the face of Rajon Rondo, possibly poking him in the face, which led the Lakers point guard to start shoving and swinging.
As that melee was being dealt with, Ingram ran in from behind Paul and started throwing punches.
The Lakers force the Rockets to call a timeout with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter after Lonzo Ball pump-fakes a three-pointer then drives pass the defender and lobs a pass to JaVale McGee for a dunk that cuts the Rockets lead to 109-108.
Houston took control midway through the quarter with Eric Gordon converting a three-point play and Harden knocking down a three-pointer for a 109-104 lead.
But LeBron James converted a pair of free throws and then stole a pass and fed Rajon Rondo for a breakaway layup.
The Rockets lead the Lakers 91-85 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.
It’s been back and forth during the second half, with Houston continuing to maintain a slim lead.
The Lakers trimmed their deficit to 84-81 with 5:39 left in the third quarter when LeBron James made a layup off a feed from Rajon Rondo. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had made a three-point play on the Lakers’ previous possession.