INDIANAPOLIS – LeBron James was sleeping in a city that never sleeps on Monday when the NBA announced that the Los Angeles Lakers star would be suspended for the first time in his 19-year career and must miss Tuesday’s game against the New York Knicks.
“Rob [Pelinka] called me. I missed his call, “James told ESPN about the Lakers ‘vice president of basketball operations and general manager calling the bad news.” As soon as I checked my phone and it was a missed call, I thought,’ I know. , I’m suspended. ‘
“I mean, it’s some bulls — but no matter what.”
James more than made up for the lost time in Wednesday’s 124-116 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers in his first competition back since he was out of the Knicks fight to hit Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart in the face and draw blood.
James scored a season-high 39 points in Indianapolis, including eight of LA’s 12 points in the extra session, to help the Lakers erase a 12-point deficit in the second half and end their five-game roadtrip with a record of 2- 3.
While James gave the Indiana audience a show – even imitating Sam Cassell’s dance in the lower region after hitting a 3’s late in regulation and then erupting an old celebration from his Miami Heat days, “The Silencer”, after hitting another deep trey down in OT – – it was a decidedly off-Broadway show.
He still longed for the opportunity he missed in 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 that’s what it is.”
Although the nationally televised Lakers-Knicks game with James – still perhaps the most prominent face in the game at age 36 – followed the Pistons game on the schedule, there was no harassment from the league office to put a thumb on the scale to keep him inside. No personal appeal between James and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. No delayed investigation that would not impose a penalty until after the Knicks game was played.
“No. No,” James told ESPN. “I had a conversation with who from the league calls when you have it. Asked me my side of the story, I gave them my side of the story and then they did what f — they should do.”
James detailed this explanation after the victory over Indiana.
“There was a boxout 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 out of balance a little bit, and his elbow lifted my arm and I basically tried to swim move, swim down on him, on his arm, “James said. “And when I swung down on his arm, he got out of balance, and the left side of my hand touched his face. And I knew it right away. So I knew right away that I had caught a part of his head. “So I went over to apologize to him, and of course you saw what happened after that. But certainly coincidentally.”
James, who said he has not spoken to Stewart since the incident, said his case was only strengthened in the days after the Lakers-Pistons game, pointing out how Russell Westbrook got a bloody lip from the Knicks’ Quentin Grimes on Tuesday, and how James himself was hit in the face by Domantas Sabonis in the Pacers game, requiring a bandage on his eyelids afterwards.
“I hate to see what escalated after that,” James continued. “I did not think it was justified [a suspension]. I thought it justified an expulsion because of what happened after that. Having me, probably, still in the game and the excitement from the fans, and what could happen after that, of course. But a suspension, I did not think was justified. But the league made that call and we are here today. “
James made the day a special day, lifting LA back to 0.500 at 10-10 and securing the win without Anthony Davis, who was out with flu-like symptoms.
“That’s why he’s GOOD, man,” said Lakers guard Malik Monk, who had 17 points and eight rebounds from the bench. “I’ve been looking at him my whole life. He’s like ours [Michael] Jordan in my generation. “
Lakers coach Frank Vogel also wondered about James’ night.
“What LeBron did tonight was just a performance of the times,” Vogel said. “I know these fans and how much they love their hangers here in Indianapolis. And he did a damn show, and of course he gets to play the ball.”
The fact that James did it in Indiana, the place where his team lost 136-94 in its first season with the Lakers when the train ran off the track, was not lost on James either.
The 2018-19 campaign went sideways. This season has also looked suspicious at times. But much like the way LA turned its turn, James believes there are improvements ahead for the Lakers.
“The way it started compared to the way it ended,” James told ESPN, looking back on the trip. “Getting here, it’s always a tough building for us to play. It’s always been a tough building for me to play throughout my career, and of course you know that Rick Carlisle’s team will always be well trained.
“So to leave here with a win, it’s a damn good trip. Despite everything that has happened on this trip, it’s a good feeling to return for Thanksgiving. The food will taste a little bit better.”