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Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas ejected after first quarter tussle

From NBA Twitter and media reports

Rajon Rondo made his displeasure known about Isaiah Thomas being up for a video tribute with the Boston Celtics this season. On Wednesday night, according to Thomas, Rondo let Thomas know about that right in his face.

In the first quarter of Wednesday night’s Lakers-Pelicans game in New Orleans, both Rondo and Thomas were ejected after getting tangled up, exchanging words and getting into it with each other. The sequence took place with 37.6 seconds left in the quarter after an inbounds play by the Lakers. Thomas was on the left wing working to free up teammate Brandon Ingram with an off-ball screen on the Pelicans’ Darius Miller.

Rondo, who was guarding Thomas during this sequence, hounded Thomas as he set his screen for Ingram. From there, the two players became entangled and had words for each other. The two were given double technical fouls and tossed with 33.3 seconds left in the quarter.

Thomas told the media after the game that Rondo hit him three times and brought up the planned video tribute the Celtics had set for him earlier this season. Talk of that tribute brought comments from Rondo himself as well as Paul Pierce. The tribute was originally planned for the Feb. 11 Celtics-Cleveland Cavaliers game — the same game at which Pierce’s No. 34 was retired by the team.

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk was on hand for last night’s game and has comments from Thomas about the incident:

“Whatever reason, he’s an upset guy about me,” Thomas said after Wednesday’s game. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s fine. He kept bringing the tribute up, when I was the one that shut the tribute down. I’m far past that. … For me to be ejected was uncalled for.”

Asked if he has had any other history with Rondo, Thomas said he didn’t know.

“I mean, my team beat his team in the playoffs last year,” Thomas said, referring to the Celtics beating the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the first round last postseason. “Maybe that is what’s wrong. I don’t know. There’s nothing. Nothing should’ve made that escalate like it did. He already had his agenda written down right when I checked into the game. It was obvious. He picked me up full court, trying to be physical.

“I don’t know what was going on with him. I don’t know why I got thrown out. I don’t want to comment too much on it. … It was obvious what was going on. He was being too aggressive for whatever reason, and he also hit me in the face three times. At some point, as a human, if no one is going to protect me, I got to protect myself, and that is when I spoke up and got upset. I hope the NBA figures something out with that, because it was wrong for me to be ejected.”

“[Rondo] said what he said, I laughed it off,” Thomas continued. “It was what it was. I’m the one that stopped the video tribute from happening because I wanted Paul Pierce to have his full night. I didn’t want to take nothing from him. I know [Rondo] played on Paul Pierce’s team. He’s gonna always have Paul Pierce’s back, which is fine. I didn’t lose sleep over it. It was obvious [that it] continued to be brought up with what happened tonight.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, a Pelicans spokesperson said Rondo left the locker room Wednesday night before reporters were allowed inside.

Regarding the video tribute, Thomas was on the Cavs at the time before last week’s trade to the Lakers and said that he didn’t want a tribute video from the Celtics. In a January interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Rondo made his original displeasure known about the planned Thomas tribute.

“What has he done?” Rondo told the newspaper. When told that Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals last season, Rondo said, “Oh, that’s what we celebrate around here?”

“This is the Boston Celtics,” Rondo said. “This isn’t the Phoenix Suns. No disrespect to any other organization, but you don’t hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?”

Thomas wasn’t the only member of the Lakers to get ejected as coach Luke Walton was tossed with 1:38 left in the second quarter. Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma was called for a foul after he thought he got a clean steal, after which he protested and got a technical foul. Walton was upset by the sequence and ran onto the court near the Pelicans bench, shouting at the official.

Referee Mike Smith then hit Walton with two techicals. He has seven techs this season, second on the NBA among coaches to Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer (who has nine).

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