The NBA announced on Monday afternoon that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James will receive a one-game suspension, and lose out on a game check of $284.004 as a result, for hitting Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart, who received a two-game suspension and will miss out on $45,201 in game checks for his role in the incident, in the third quarter of Sunday's game. James was assessed a Flagrant-2 foul, which resulted in an automatic ejection, while Stewart was also ejected after getting two technicals for unsportsmanlike conduct during the incident.
This is the first suspension of LeBron's NBA career, and Sunday night's ejection was also just the second of his career. James will miss the upcoming matchup against the New York Knicks, which will ironically mean that he will be on the floor when the Lakers face off against the Pistons again, but this time at Staples Center on Sunday, Nov. 28.
The altercation that led to James' suspension occurred in the third quarter when Stewart and James were fighting for positioning to grab a rebound. Stewart was pushing into James, who clearly didn't take kindly to it and swung his arm back and punched Stewart in the eye. Here's how the situation played out:
Stewart's eye was bloodied from LeBron's hit and things escalated from there, with the Pistons big man trying to charge back at Lakers players multiple times before he was corralled and taken to the locker room following his ejection. Russell Westbrook was also given a technical for trying to escalate the situation, something he was unaware of until reporters told him after the game.
Neither James nor Stewart spoke following the end of the game, in which L.A. won after coming back from a 17-point deficit. However, players and coaches from both sides spoke on the manner. Pistons coach Dwane Casey said in part, "I don't think James is a dirty player, but again, it got them going." Lakers All-Star forward Anthony Davis echoed the same sentiment in saying James isn't a "dirty guy," and noted that James tried to tell Stewart he didn't mean for that to happen immediately after he saw what he did.
Intent aside, though, the Lakers will now have to carry on for their next game without James after getting him back just a game prior from an eight-game absence due to an abdominal sprain. While LeBron was sidelined, L.A. struggled to look like even a playoff team, going 3-5 while he was out during that span. Though he won't be out for nearly as long, him being suspended will require strong performances from Westbrook and Davis during these next few games, which hasn't always been guaranteed so far this season.
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Although Davis is averaging 24.6 points this season, he hasn't shown the ability to take over games consistently, especially in crucial situations for the Lakers. For Westbrook, he's struggled to adjust to his new role with the Lakers as he's averaging 19.3 points, the lowest since his second year in the league. He's also shooting 28 percent from deep on over four attempts per game. L.A. will need more from those two if it hopes to pick up some wins with LeBron out.
James' suspension is just the latest bump in the road for a team that hasn't had an ideal start to the season sitting at just 9-9. As we approach the quarter mark of the 2021-22 season, the Lakers will surely like to forget the first month and a half of the season where they've dealt with injuries to several key players, and now this.