LeBron James suspension prediction: History suggests 2-3 games for a closed punch on Isaiah Stewart
No one needs to remind anyone that the most horrific brawl in NBA history took place in Detroit. The infamous “Malice at the Palace” was back in 2004, and on Sunday night we could have been dangerously close to a similar scene on the pitch.
It happened in the third quarter of the Lakers-Pistons game. Jerami Grant was shooting a free throw, and as Detroit’s LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart battled for the rebound position, LeBron took a wild blow, with a clenched fist, back, connecting with Stewart’s face in what is almost impossible to consider as anything other than an intentional and hostile act.
Your turn to judge :
Here’s a slightly different angle:
It was the start of a scene that quickly began to escalate. Stewart and LeBron had to be separated, and from there Stewart, with his face now covered in blood, essentially lost his mind, trying to make his way through anyone and everyone to reach James.
He even tried to break free through the tunnel, with the Lakers bench being warned to watch Stewart coming out the other side.
Once they showed the video of the punch on the big screen, fans inside the arena started to get obviously agitated. The AP announcer urged everyone to stay in their places as memories of the “palace malevolence” began to cross everyone’s minds. It could easily have gotten out of hand. Thanks to everyone who didn’t let this happen.
When the dust settled, LeBron was rated a Flagrant-2 and kicked out of the game. Stewart, who was charged with a free ball foul, received two technical fouls for his reaction and was also ejected. Russell Westbrook also received a technical foul.
We’re clearly going to hear a lot more about it. Stewart and James will almost certainly face suspensions. But let’s not lose sight of what caused this. It was LeBron’s deliberate punch. Again, it’s impossible to watch this video and think that something other than LeBron deliberately threw Stewart around with a closed fist.
You can chat about whether he intended to punch him in the face, but that doesn’t really matter. He swung with intention. He rocked high. And he absolutely smoked Stewart, and his reaction – while also not acceptable and deserving of a full-blown suspension – was certainly understandable.
How long will LeBron’s suspension be? Based on the previous ones, my best guess would be two to three games, and I would go for both. You can at least say that LeBron didn’t really intend to punch Stewart in the face (although I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen so high up in that proximity), while in the brawl 2018 Rockets-Lakers (video below), Brandon Ingram, who got a four-game suspension, and Rajon Rondo, who got three, both threw clearly intentional punches in the face.
The most comparable recent example is that of JR Smith who was suspended two games for making a similar throwback and connecting to Jae Crowder’s face in the 2015 playoffs.