INDIANAPOLIS – James lebron was napping in the city that never sleeps on Monday when the NBA announced that the Los Angeles Lakers star is reportedly suspended for the first time in his 19-year career and is set to miss Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks.
“Rob [Pelinka] Call me. I missed his call, ”James told ESPN of the Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager composing the bad news. “As soon as I checked my phone and it was a missed call, I was like, ‘I’m suspended.’
“I mean, they’re bulls —. But whatever.”
James more than made up for lost time in the 124-116 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers in his first game since being out of the Knicks game for hitting Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart in the face, shedding blood.
James scored 39 points, a season-high, including eight of LA’s 12 points in the extra session, to help the Lakers erase a 12-point second-half deficit and complete their road trip to five games with a 2-3 record.
As James put on a show for the Indiana crowd – even mimicking Sam Cassell’s lower region dance after he scored a late 3 in regulation, then erupted an old celebration of his Miami heat days, “The Silencer,” after knocking down another deep triple in OT – it was a decidedly off-Broadway performance.
He still yearned for the opportunity he missed at Madison Square Garden, a chance that only comes once a season now that he’s playing in the Western Conference.
“I was devastated,” James told ESPN. “It’s my favorite place in the world to play, so I was looking forward to it. But it is.”
Even though the nationally televised Lakers-Knicks game starring James – still perhaps the most prominent face in the game at 36 – followed the Pistons game on the schedule, there was no baffle on the part of the league office to put a thumb on the scales to keep it. No personal call between James and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. No delayed investigation that would only impose a penalty after the Knicks game.
“No. No,” James told ESPN. “I had a conversation with whoever in the league calls when you got this. You asked me for my side of the story, I gave them my side of the story, and then they did what they had to. to do.”
James detailed this explanation after the victory over Indiana.
“There was a box-out on the free throw line. His elbow got a little high, it got me – if you watch, if you watch the movie – it got me off balance a little and his elbow lifted my arm up and I basically tried swimming, swimming on him, on his arm, “James said. “And when I rocked onto his arm, he lost his balance and the left side of my hand brushed his face. And I knew right away. So I knew right away that I was had grabbed part of his head. So I went over to apologize to him, and obviously you saw what happened after that. But definitely accidental. “
James, who said he had not spoken to Stewart since the incident, said his case had only been reinforced since the Lakers-Pistons game, stressing how Russell westbrook I had a bloody lip from the Knicks Quentin Grimes Tuesday and how he got punched in the face by Domantas sabonis in the Pacers game, requiring a bandage on his eyelid afterwards.
“I hate to see this, which escalated after that,” James continued. “I didn’t think that justified [a suspension]. I thought that warranted a deportation because of what happened after that. Having me, probably, still in the game and the excitement of the fans and what could possibly happen after that, obviously. But a suspension, I didn’t think it was justified. But the league made that call and we are here today. “
James made the day a special one, cutting LA down to 0.500 to 10-10, securing the win without Anthony davis, who had come out with flu-like symptoms.
“That’s why he’s the GOAT, man,” said Monk Malik, who had 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench. “I’ve watched him all my life. He’s like our [Michael] Jordan in my generation. “
Lakers coach Frank Vogel also marveled at James’ night.
“What LeBron did tonight was just a performance for the ages,” Vogel said. “I know these fans and how much they love their hoops here in Indianapolis. And he put on a hell of a show and obviously he’s got the ball.”
The fact that he did so in Indiana, the place where his team lost 136-94 in their first season with the Lakers when the train went off the rails, also hasn’t been lost on James.
This season has gone sideways. This season has also seemed suspicious at times. But in the same way that LA changed its road trip, James believes there are improvements ahead for the Lakers.
“The way it started versus how it ended,” James told ESPN, reflecting on the trip. “Coming here is always a difficult building for us to play. It has always been a tough building for me to play throughout my career, and of course you know Rick Carlisle’s side will always be well trained.
“So to leave here with a win is a hell of a good trip. Despite everything that happened on this trip, it’s a good feeling to come back to Thanksgiving. The food will be a little better. “