WALTHAM, Mass. — Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was suspended for the third time this calendar year on Thursday when the NBA told him to sit out two games without pay for starting a skirmish that sent players sprawling into the courtside seats.
Rondo will miss Friday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers and Sunday’s against the Bucks in Milwaukee. He will also give up $200,000 in pay.
Celtics center Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for his role in the scuffle, and Nets forward Gerald Wallace was fined $35,000.
Rondo was thrown out of Wednesday night’s 95-83 loss to the Nets in the second quarter when he shoved Nets forward Kris Humphries off the parquet to retaliate for a hard foul on Garnett. A shoving match ensued; Rondo, Humphries and Wallace were all ejected.
Rondo spoke with the league on the telephone on Thursday and made his case.
“I told them the truth,” he said after practice at the Celtics’ workout facility in suburban Boston. “I don’t think I did anything dirty. I didn’t try to start a riot. I don’t think it was more than just a pushing war.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said in the afternoon that he was hopeful Rondo would not be suspended because no punches were thrown — or at least none caught on camera. But he said he feared the fact that the scuffle went into the stands could lead to a suspension.
The decision was announced shortly before 6 p.m. by NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson.
Nets general manager Billy King said on a conference call that he didn’t agree with the penalties and told Jackson so. He noted that Humphries had scratches all over his left shoulder; the Nets forward posted a picture of them on Twitter with the caption, “Anyone know where I can quick get a Tetnis shot in Boston?”
Earlier, Rivers said on a radio show that he blamed Humphries for the incident. But the referees disagreed, with crew chief James Capers saying in a pool report after the game: “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
King also defended his player, who was not penalized on Thursday.
“I really could care less of what the Celtics say about Kris,” King said. “I just know what he does for us.”
Rondo was suspended twice last season after losing his temper — once when he threw a ball at a referee, and again during the playoffs when he chest-bumped an official while disputing a foul call. But, just as he did after those incidents, he insisted that he had learned his lesson about taking himself out of the game.
“I know I have to be out there with my teammates. That’s the thing about it,” he said. “But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn’t try to start a fight.”
Rivers said he thinks Rondo now understands he is more valuable to his team if he can remain on the court.
“I don’t think he went in there thinking, ‘We’re going to get in a fight,'” Rivers said. “It’s snap, it’s quick, and it could happen to any of us, and it has happened to me.”
Rondo is averaging 12.9 points and a career-high 12.9 assists per game. He entered Wednesday night with a streak of 37 consecutive games with double-digit assists; that streak ended with his ejection, leaving him tied with John Stockton for the second-longest in NBA history.
Rondo said he will work on controlling his temper but also denied that it was a problem.
“I play the game the right way. I’m not a dirty player. Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, but I have no intention of hurting anybody,” Rondo said. “I go out there and compete every night, and that’s how I play the game. I play the game hard; I play the game with an edge. I’m not a trash-talker. I don’t play the game dirty. I play hard and when one of my guys are disrespected, I retaliated.”