In his first game back at Staples Center as a member of the Houston Rockets, NBA superstar Chris Paul was involved in some pushes, shoves, and a war of words against some of his former Los Angeles Clippers teammates. Worse still, Paul was among a group of Rockets who tried to enter the Clippers locker room through the backdoor and apparently looking for a fight.
Emotions were expected to be high in the game between the Rockets and Clippers but no one probably expected bad blood to spill off the basketball court. After the Clippers handed the Rockets a 113-102 loss on Monday, four members of the Rockets stormed the Clippers locker room supposedly looking for Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers, reports ESPN.
Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green reportedly passed through a back hallway, which wasn’t accessible to the media, leading to the back door of the Clippers training room. The Rockets tried to enter the locker room but security and team officials were able to hold them back preventing the situation from escalating.
According to witnesses, Ariza was the first to enter the Clippers locker room before they were pushed out. In a later tweet, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said that Ariza was the angriest of the bunch and the most determined to enter the Clippers locker room. He also said that Paul and Harden were there to calm Ariza down.
"…Classic NBA," one witness said. "None of these guys were going to fight." My ESPN story on the Rockets barging into the Clippers locker room at Staples Center. https://t.co/0q90tAcLH2
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 16, 2018
“Sources: As details emerge on aftermath Rockets-Clippers game, Trevor Ariza remains described as most aggressive and determined to get into opposing locker room,” Wojnarowski tweeted. “Chris Paul and James Harden viewed as trying to slow down Ariza. NBA investigation will continue into Wednesday.”
Some fans argued that Paul’s involvement in the off-court altercation were more than being a mere mediator. At least one fan commented on Wojnarowski’s tweet that the only way Ariza and the rest of the Rockets could have known of the “secret tunnel” was if Paul led them there. Another commenter quickly busted the conspiracy theory by informing the other that Ariza played for the Los Angeles Lakers and therefore was likely aware of the ins and outs of the Staple Center.
Paul, who asked to be traded from the Clippers to the Rockets, was involved in a few shoving incidents as well as some heated exchanges with the Clippers. In the second quarter, the Clippers were on a breakaway with Griffin sprinting ahead of Paul when the Rockets’ lead guard managed to get in the way and prevent a basket. Paul and Wesley Johnson had some words for each other after the play. Later on, Paul and Griffin got a bit entangled once more as Blake was called for a foul.
CP3 got candid about the scuffle between the Rockets and the Clippers. pic.twitter.com/iZep4CS1oR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 16, 2018
With three and half minutes remaining in the fourth and the Clippers leading by eight points, Griffin and Houston coach Mike Dunleavy got into a shouting match before Paul joined the exchange. Ariza then stood between the former teammates and shoved Griffin away.
In a later play, Blake’s leg sleeve got torn when Ariza grabbed on to Griffin as he spun away. Griffin later caught the inbound pass awkwardly and had to throw the ball at Eric Gordon, who fouled him on the play, to keep it in Clippers possession. However, Griffin threw the ball high and hard, hitting Gordon just below his nape.
After Griffin made the foul shot, Ariza rushed forward and took a shot at Blake, which didn’t escape the eyes of the crowd and the broadcasters. Ariza then had some words with Austin Rivers, who was not dressed for the game, before Griffin came over and confronted the Rockets’ forward. Griffin and Ariza were thrown out with just over a minute left in the game.
When asked about the locker room incident, Blake Griffin said that the Clippers were in the right place and that the Rockets should be the ones questioned about the controversy.