Chris Paul returned to the Staples Center on Monday night to play his first road game against the Clippers since leaving the team last summer through a trade to the Rockets, and as you might imagine, things got heated between the two teams. But no one could have predicted just how heated things would eventually get before the night was over.
The game, which the Clippers won 113-102, got chippy at several points throughout the contest, but it got especially chippy with about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter after the game’s referees appeared to miss a goaltending call on Clippers forward Wesley Johnson. As several Rockets players argued with the refs about the call, Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni ran out to midcourt to argue with them, which didn’t sit well with Clippers forward Blake Griffin. He asked the refs to send D’Antoni back to the Rockets’ bench and then appeared to come into contact with D’Antoni as he ran back down the court.
Griffin scored on the ensuing play and was fouled on it, which prompted more complaining from Rockets players and D’Antoni. And as Paul and his new teammates discussed the foul call with the referees, Griffin and D’Antoni started yelling at each other and seemed to hurl F-bombs in one another’s direction. Over the next few minutes, the tensions continued to boil over with Griffin getting into it with Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon before getting into it with Ariza again after Ariza exchanged words with Clippers guard Austin Rivers, who didn’t play in the game due to an injury but was reportedly jawing with Rockets players throughout it from the sidelines. Griffin and Ariza were both ejected at that point.
With Griffin and Ariza sent packing, the game ended peacefully without any further incidents. But the tension between the two teams was far from over. Shortly after the game ended, several reporters sent out tweets suggesting Paul and James Harden, who didn’t play in the game due to an injury, were involved in some type of altercation back in the Rockets’ locker room. Initially, it sounded like Rockets players were going at it with one another.
But at about 1:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski revealed what really happened in the bowels of the Staples Center. According to him, Paul, Harden, Ariza, and newly-signed Rockets forward Gerald Green used a "secret hallway" to try and make their way into the Clippers’ locker room in an effort to confront Rivers. Security stopped them before they were able to get into the Clippers’ locker room, but it sounds like it was a wild situation.
According to Wojnarowski, the Rockets were also planning to go after Griffin if and when they were able to bust through the Clippers’ locker room doors.
And while all of that was going on, Wojnarowski reported Rockets center Clint Capela took a different route to try and get into the Clippers’ locker room. He knocked on the front door in an effort to join his teammates inside.
The Rockets players were never able to make their way into the locker room, and a Clippers source told Wojnarowski that, even if they had, they wouldn’t have actually done anything. "It was classic NBA," the source said. "None of these guys were going to fight."
Griffin also spoke about what took place and said he didn’t have any intentions of trying to meet up with the Rockets players to fight with them. "We were where we were supposed to be," he said. "We were in our locker room. So whatever happens over there, I mean, we can’t control what anybody does. We control what we did. Everybody was in our seats. That’s it."
That may have been all that happened, but obviously, NBA fans had a field day overnight with the news about what almost took place between the Rockets and Clippers. People were fascinated by the great lengths Paul and his teammates tried to go to in order to confront Rivers and Griffin and couldn’t believe Paul used his prior knowledge of the Staples Center to attempt to break into the Clippers’ locker room. The memes were out in full force in the wee hours of Tuesday morning with everyone joking about CP3 leading a raid of his former locker room.
Griffin also seemed to joke about the near-altercation by posting this on Twitter.
Fortunately, this didn’t escalate into a more serious situation. But the NBA is definitely going to take some sort of action against all those involved. Wojnarowski is reporting the league is going to launch an investigation into it on Tuesday before dishing out fines and possibly even suspensions.
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time the Clippers have been involved in a situation like this. Back in 2014, at the height of the Clippers/Warriors rivalry, there was nearly a big brawl between the two teams following Game 7 of a playoff series. It involved Jermaine O’Neal, Steph Curry, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, and—you guessed it—Chris Paul, and it also had to be stopped by security.