LeBron James famously loves playing at Madison Square Garden, going so far as to stoke rumors of an eventual stint with the New York Knicks in 2019 when he joked to Dwyane Wade after their final game against one another that such a momentous occasion could have only taken place at Staples Center or there, in New York. Barring a surprise meetup with the Knicks in the NBA Finals, though, James won’t get the chance to play in his favorite building this season. The four-time NBA MVP was suspended for Monday’s game between the Lakers and Knicks because of his hit on Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.
James returned to the floor Wednesday vs. the Indiana Pacers, but in his eyes, he never should have missed the Knicks game. After the win over Indiana, James called his suspension “some bull****” and argued that all the dispute with Stewart truly warranted was an ejection.
“There was a boxout on the free-throw line. His elbow got kind of high, it got me — if you look, if you watch the film — it got me off balanced a little bit, and his elbow lifted my arm, and I basically tried to swim move, swim down on him, on his arm,” James told reporters on Wednesday. “And when I swung down on his arm, he got off balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face. And I knew right away. So, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head. So, I went over to apologize to him, and obviously, you guys saw what happened after that. But definitely accidental.”
“I hate to see that, what escalated after that,” James continued. “I didn’t think it warranted [a suspension]. I thought it warranted an ejection because of what happened after that. Having me, probably, still in the game and the excitement from the fans and what could possibly happen after that, obviously. But a suspension, I didn’t think it was warranted. But the league made that call, and we’re here today.”
There were many that believed that James’ hit on Stewart warranted a longer suspension than just a single game. Stewart himself received a two-game suspension, knocking him out for twice as long as James even though James was the initiator on Sunday. Both suspensions have now been served in full, and on Sunday, James and Stewart will meet again when the Lakers and Pistons have a rematch in Los Angeles.