Isaiah Thomas has made headlines on numerous occasions over the course of the last week because of his reported beef with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. But on Wednesday night, Thomas set his sights on beefing with a different player—and it ended with him getting ejected from a game before it even reached the end of the first quarter.
Thomas and Rajon Rondo were both ejected from the Lakers/Pelicans game on Wednesday after they were involved in an altercation towards the end of the first frame. The two players got tangled up with one another several times and exchanged words before they were hit with double technical fouls and sent packing. It was an odd scene with Rondo seemingly trying to provoke Thomas while guarding him. You can watch it play out here.
Following the game, Thomas was asked about what happened between him and Rondo, and he claimed Rondo hit him in the face three times during the game before tensions boiled over. He also claimed Rondo repeatedly brought up the video tribute the Celtics planned for Thomas on the same night as Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement ceremony before eventually canceling it at Thomas’ request.
"Whatever reason, he's an upset guy about me," Thomas said. "I don't know what it is, but it's fine. He kept bringing the tribute up, when I was the one that shut the tribute down. I'm far past that…For me to be ejected was uncalled for."
Rondo didn’t speak with the media after the game on Wednesday night, but it’s worth noting that if he did taunt Thomas over the tribute, it wouldn’t come as a total surprise. Rondo was asked about the tribute after a game in January, and he spoke out against the Celtics deciding to do it in the first place.
"What has he done?" Rondo asked at the time, before being told about how Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and responding accordingly. "Oh, that’s what we celebrate around here?"
However, Thomas told reporters he wasn’t upset about what Rondo said when he was asked about those comments on Wednesday night.
"He said what he said, I laughed it off," Thomas said. "It was what it was. I'm the one that stopped the video tribute from happening because I wanted Paul Pierce to have his full night. I didn't want to take nothing from him. I know [Rondo] played on Paul Pierce's team. He's gonna always have Paul Pierce's back, which is fine. I didn't lose sleep over it. It was obvious [that it] continued to be brought up with what happened tonight."
Thomas also told reporters he doesn’t share any bad blood from the past with Rondo. He theorized Rondo might possibly be upset with him because Thomas and the Celtics beat Rondo and the Bulls in the playoffs last season, but he couldn't say for sure why Rondo seemed so irked at him.
"I mean, my team beat his team in the playoffs last year," Thomas said. "Maybe that is what's wrong. I don't know. There's nothing. Nothing should've made that escalate like it did. He already had his agenda written down right when I checked into the game. It was obvious. He picked me up full court, trying to be physical."
Whatever the case may be, Thomas seemed to shrug off the altercation with Rondo. But he said he does plan to try and appeal the technical fouls he received during the game. He thinks Rondo, not him, should be forced to deal with the consequences of them.
"It felt like they were waiting for me to get upset," Thomas said, referencing the game’s officials. "I got hit in the face three times, and the third time I got hit in my face, I reacted and tried to tell the refs, 'Are you guys going to control this?' I definitely need to get those technical fouls rescinded."
Thomas and Rondo weren’t the only ones to get ejected from the game. Lakers head coach Luke Walton got ejected just before halftime, too, for arguing with the game’s officials. The Pelicans went on to win 139-117.