LeBron James in Hot Water After Altercation, Potential Suspension Looms

LeBron James Isaiah Stewart

Getty LeBron James continues to emphasize he did not intentionally hit Isaiah Stewart.

The Los Angeles Lakers may once again be without LeBron James, but this time the superstar’s absence has nothing to do with injuries. James was ejected after striking Pistons’ big man Isaiah Stewart in the face during a November 21 matchup, but there is reason to believe that the NBA will suspend both players for the altercation. Spotrac’s Keith Smith noted that the NBA has a history of one-game suspensions for players who were charged with a flagrant-two foul.

“Gotta imagine a suspension is coming for Isaiah Stewart,” Smith tweeted on November 21. “You lose it like that and you’re gonna miss a game or two. The real question is if LeBron James also gets a suspension or not. Flagrant 2’s pretty regularly do also come with a one-game suspension. We’ll see tomorrow!”

ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!

Join Heavy on Lakers!

There Is Belief Around the NBA That LeBron Will Receive Special Treatment: Report

Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus noted that there is a wide range of belief around the league about what discipline James will face. There is some speculation James could receive preferential treatment with the Lakers heading to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks, while others expect a two to three game suspension.

“This is the most critical question, as it’s not subjective,” Pincus detailed. “The league will issue a concrete penalty for both. Guessing what that will be is a little bit trickier. A quick poll of various people in NBA-related positions was all over the map. Some speculated James would get one or two games, but a few backed off that notion when reminded the Lakers next play the Knicks in New York on Tuesday.

“…James can claim the contact to Stewart’s face was unintentional, whereas [Nikola] Jokic clearly went after Morris. Additionally, at his $41.2 million salary, James would be penalized $284,004 a game. Jokic’s penalty was $217,789, and Morris, who started the incident with a Flagrant 2 on Jokic, was fined the maximum of $50,000. If the NBA wants to punish James for more than $50,000, they’ll need to go to the one-game suspension. Two games seem excessive, based on recent precedent.”

James’ Intent May Not Factor Into the NBA’s Decision

James did not meet with the media after being ejected, but several of his teammates came to his defense, including Anthony Davis, emphasizing that the Lakers star did not intentionally hit Stewart. James’ intent is almost impossible to measure, and it may not factor into the league’s decision about a potential suspension. CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin projects a suspension in the two to three game range.

“How long will LeBron’s suspension be?” Botkin explained. “Based on precedent, my best guess would be two to three games, and I would lean toward the two. You can at least argue LeBron didn’t fully intend to hit Stewart in the face (though I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen swinging that high within that proximity), whereas in the 2018 Rockets-Lakers brawl (video below), Brandon Ingram, who got a four-game suspension, and Rajon Rondo, who got three games, both threw clearly intentional punches to the face.”