Mark L. Baer/US Presswire
Rajon Rondo is left jersey-less after a tussle with Kris Humphries.BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were bracing themselves for the possibility that point guard Rajon Rondo will be suspended by the league for his role in escalating a tussle that left three players ejected in Wednesday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
After Nets forward Kris Humphries delivered a foul that sent Kevin Garnett crashing hard to the floor, Rondo took exception and immediately confronted Humphries, delivering a two-handed shove. The two then got tangled, with Rondo the aggressor, and spilled into the stands beneath the basket in front of the Celtics' bench as players and coaches from both teams rushed onto the court with security and team personnel trying to defuse the situation.
Humphries ended up falling backwards, but managed to pull Rondo's jersey up over his head as the two were quickly swarmed. At the same time, Garnett and Gerald Wallace were jostling with each other nearby.
After a video review, the referees ejected both Humphries and Rondo for fighting -- crew chief James Capers later explained to a pool reporter that, by going into the stands, the two were involved in a fight that required ejection. Humphries earned two technical fouls, including one for taking Garnett to the floor with a second personal foul after the initial contact.
As for whether Garnett or Wallace threw a punch, Capers added, "As we reviewed it, no. They aggressively went to one another, and they basically pushed and extended on one another, but there was not a punch thrown."
That might spare both players much more than a possible fine. Wallace had an earlier technical foul and the dust-up with Garnett left him ejected. Garnett remained in the game with only one technical.
Garnett admitted the team is worried about a possible suspension for Rondo, but liked how his teammate stood up for him.
"Obviously, we are (worried about a possible suspension)," Garnett said. "But it's what it is. You have to protect each other, and we consider ourselves family around here, and that's just the way it is."
Asked about the initial infraction on Humphries, Garnett said, "Just a hard foul. I thought the antics afterward were a bit extra, but, (it was a) hard foul."
Neither Rondo, Humphries, nor Wallace were available for comment after the game, but Humphries tweeted, "Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?" along with a photo showing several cuts on and around his left shoulder.
Asked about sticking up for a teammate, Celtics captain Paul Pierce said there's a fine line between that and risking suspension.
"You don't want to get into any altercations where it's going to cost you any games," Pierce said. "The best you can do is just try to play mediator in there. But when you're in a battle, it's tough sometimes. Elbows are thrown, guys get pushed, sometimes you just react. It's in a lot of peoples' nature. If I come and push somebody, their natural reaction is to push you back, or, if I hit you, the natural reaction is to hit you back. So, it's tough when you're in the heat of the battle. That's what the game is sometimes."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he wanted to reserve judgment until he got a look at the play. He said he wouldn't address Rondo until Thursday morning before the team's practice, but admitted it wasn't the right sort of physicality from his team, which he admitted was "soft" against the Nets.
"I don't really have a reaction," Rivers said. "Honestly, I kind of saw it late and ran in just to clean it up. I haven't looked at it on film yet, so I don't have a lot to say about it."
Later he added, "I don't think anybody should get thrown out of a game. We all have to keep our emotions, you know. I mean, hell, we didn't come to play -- as a team, that was awful, basketball-wise. I thought, if I'm Brooklyn and the league, you've got to think we're pretty soft the way we're playing. We're a soft team right now; we have no toughness. And that (fighting) stuff's not toughness."
Nets coach Avery Johnson liked how his team responded, particularly by emerging with a gritty win on the road.
"We got some guys that aren't going to back down," Johnson said. "And, unfortunately, some of our guys got tossed, but it's in the hands of the league right now. They'll take a look at everything. I thought the referees did a good job of getting the game back under control, which was huge."
Johnson added, "Mentally tough. Lot of fiber on our team. And a battle. They battled and they fought hard, literally I guess. And they just didn't give in. They didn't give in to any adversity tonight. We had a lot of adversity on the court on the road."
Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.