A day after refusing to comment on his fight with Chris Paul and provide his side of the story, Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo apparently had enough.
Rondo said he did not spit on Paul and added that while people think Paul is a “good guy,” he is actually a “horrible teammate.”
He made the comments in an interview that was published anonymously Tuesday morning on ESPN.
“I had a mouthpiece in my mouth and I [was] exasperated because I was about to tell him to ‘get the [expletive] out of here,’” Rondo said. “Look at my body language. My hands on my hips. I turn away for a second. Look at Eric [Gordon] and Melo [Carmelo Anthony] in the video. If they saw me spit, they would have turned their face up or something. They had no reaction.”
The NBA suspended Rondo for three games after a fight that involved him, Paul and Brandon Ingram. Of the three players, Ingram received the lengthiest sentence. The third-year forward was suspended for four games while Rondo received a three-game suspension and Paul was suspended for two.
“Of course, the NBA went with his side because I got three games and he got two,” Rondo said. “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.”
The altercation started Saturday night when Ingram shoved James Harden in the back after Ingram was called for a foul while Harden was driving down the lane in transition. Referee Jason Phillips assessed Ingram a technical foul, which he objected to forcefully. While play was stopped, Rondo and Paul became engaged in conversation that quickly escalated. Paul poked Rondo in the nose, then Rondo punched him in the face and the two exchanged blows.
Paul told the ESPN broadcast crew that Rondo spit on him. On Sunday, video circulated on social media that showed spit coming out of Rondo’s mouth. It was unclear if that spit hit Paul.
“Y’all are playing me with these tricks or these mind games, tampering with the evidence,” Rondo told ESPN on Tuesday. “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. After the [expletive] 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.”
Rondo and Paul have a history of enmity. Rondo’s playing style often irritates opponents, and his ability to get under opponents’ skin is well known throughout the league. But he also rarely shares his own side of the story.
In 2009, Rondo reportedly taunted Paul about the fact that Rondo had won a championship the previous season with the Boston Celtics and told Paul he would never win one. Celtics media relations told reporters at the time that Rondo requested that they not ask about Paul then or ever.
In this case, Rondo considered letting his side go untold as well.
“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.”
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
On the air: TV: Spectrum Sportsnet; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: Phoenix is coming off a 20-point loss to the Golden State Warriors. The Suns’ lone win came against the Dallas Mavericks in their season opener. Forward T.J. Warren has offered a surprise source of three-pointers for the Suns, averaging 57% shooting on 4.7 attempts a game.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli