The NBA suspended Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green two games without pay “for entering the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room to confront a player,” the league announced in a news release Wednesday.
“When you have two players who entered an opponent’s locker room to confront an opponent in circumstances like this where you have a really intense game – it’s chippy, tempers are high – it’s inappropriate and possibly a very dangerous situation,” NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told UT Sports in a phone interview.
“We have to make sure that if you’re going in under those circumstances, you have to know that it is wrong. There’s a very bright line.”
The incident happened following the Clippers’ 113-102 victory against the Rockets on Monday.
Houston’s Chris Paul, who played for the Clippers last season, and James Harden were not penalized for their roles in the altercation. No penalties were issued to the Clippers because they remained in their locker room.
Through an investigation that included more than 20 interviews by the NBA’s basketball operations department, including surveillance from video cameras, the league determined that Ariza and Green entered the Clippers’ locker room and “engaged in a hostile, verbal altercation with several Clippers players. The league’s investigation further concluded that Rockets players, James Harden and Chris Paul, followed Ariza and Green into the corridor outside the locker room in an effort to defuse the situation, and accordingly, discipline is not warranted.”
VanDeWeghe, who described the investigation as “quite exhaustive,” said the altercation was all verbal and not physical.
Ariza and Green will miss Houston’s games Thursday against Minnesota and Saturday against Golden State.
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who did not play because of an ankle injury, was the first to respond to the unwelcome visitors when he stood up from his nearby locker. Words were exchanged, with always-outspoken Clippers point guard Pat Beverley among the most vocal. With staff members closing the front door of the locker room so that Rockets in the hallway couldn’t enter from that direction, Clippers security officials intervened before any altercation broke out.
There’s nothing secret about the path the Rockets’ players took. It is commonly used as a place for players on different teams to socialize or for league officials to move more freely when the main hallway gets crowded during the playoffs. Paul and Ariza were familiar with that route, with the former having spent his past six seasons with the Clippers and Ariza two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The on-court sparks that led to it were easy to see:
—Griffin bumping into Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni late in the fourth quarter as he argued with an official, which led to the player and coach exchanging words and each receiving technicals;
–Ariza ripping Griffin’s leg tights during play soon thereafter, with the wardrobe malfunction adding to the WWE-style scene;
–Austin Rivers – whose presence has been seen by some as an obstacle to father Doc Rivers’ relationships with players like Paul – engaging in a shouting match with Ariza that led to Griffin bumping Ariza on the floor.
–Griffin and Ariza were ejected with just over a minute left in a game that featured five technicals.
Contributing: Sam Amick
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