LeBron James has been suspended for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden after he was ejected for bloodying the face of Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart while boxing out for a rebound, leading to an extended melee.
The ejection, during Sunday’s game between the Lakers and Pistons in Detroit, was just the second for James in his 19-season career. Stewart, who reacted to being struck in the face by James by charging toward him, also has been suspended, for two games. Stewart will miss Detroit’s home game against Miami on Tuesday and road game at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The incident started in the third quarter when James and Stewart tangled while boxing out on a rebound off a missed free throw and James’s hand hit Stewart in the face. Stewart went down on one knee, and James reached out an arm as if to apologize.
Stewart then jumped to his feet and confronted James, causing players on both teams to join the scrum. Stewart, who had significant bleeding around his eye, was restrained on two occasions only to break away and renew the contretemps.
Both players were ejected, and Russell Westbrook of the Lakers was assessed a technical for being “an escalator and not a peacemaker” the referee Scott Foster told reporters.
Neither James nor Stewart commented after the game.
(The incident begins at 4:44 in the video.)
“Everyone in the league knows Bron’s not a dirty guy,” his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said after the game. “As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and told him, ‘Oh, my bad. I didn’t try to do it.’”
Pistons coach Dwane Casey said of Stewart, “His eye got cracked all the way open, and he was upset for a reason.”
In all, the game was delayed more than 15 minutes. The Lakers, who were trailing by 12 at the time of the incident, wound up rallying to win, 121-116.
The N.B.A., in announcing the punishments, said Stewart was suspended for escalating the situation “by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing” James. The league described James as “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation.”
Stewart received two technical fouls throughout the incident, and James was called for a flagrant 2 foul for striking Stewart. Both penalties triggered automatic ejections. The Pistons and Lakers are due to meet again in Los Angeles on Sunday.
James’s previous ejection came in 2017 for arguing with a referee when he was with the Cavaliers.