So much for a friendly homecoming.
Tensions were high on the court and off the court on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Clippers defeated former teammate Chris Paul, and the Houston Rockets, 113-102, on Monday night.
After the game, an altercation broke out just outside the Clippers' locker room as Trevor Ariza, James Harden, Chris Paul and Gerald Green all tried to enter the Clippers' locker room after the loss.
There was a fight outside the #Rockets and #Clippers locker room following the game. Security everywhere.— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) January 16, 2018
For those unfamiliar with the bowels of Staples Center, the Clippers locker room is adjacent to the visitor's locker room. Only a hallway separates the two rooms, and their is access to each locker room through the hallway.
On many occasions, players from both the Clippers and the visiting team catch up in these hallways or exchange pleasantries away from the press or the public.
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However, there were no pleasantries exchanged on this night.
According to a source with the Rockets organization, Ariza led the charge into the Clippers locker room looking to confront either Blake Griffin or injured guard Austin Rivers.
Griffin and Ariza had both been ejected from the game with just over a minute lest in the fourth quarter, and Ariza could be seen exchanging words with Rivers before he left the court.
According to the source, Rivers saw Ariza near the entrance of the locker room and told security, "Let his b---- a--- come in."
The comment infuriated Ariza who was backed up by Harden, Paul, and Green.
It was also reported that at the same time as the four players were trying to enter the locker room from the side, Rockets' center Clint Capela was at the front door of the Clippers' locker room, and knocked on the door.
According to a Clippers staff member who opened the door, Capela stood in front looking to get inside before the door was shut on his face.
"I saw it in our locker room," said Clippers' head coach Doc Rivers when asked what went down between the two teams. "Let's put it like this. Our whole team was in our locker room. Their [The Rockets] entire team was not in their locker room. I'll let you figure it out from there."
NBC LA sports reporter Michael J. Duarte was outside the locker room when the altercation broke out, and saw security push the Rockets players back into the hallway that divides the two locker rooms.
LAPD has been called to the scene outside #Clippers locker room. Reportedly, Trevor Ariza, James Harden, and other #Rockets players tried to go after Austin Rivers inside the #ItTakesEverything locker room. Clippers players have been banned from going to #Rockets players area— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) January 16, 2018
LAPD was called to the scene, as was extra security. Nothing ever got physical between the two teams as it was broken up and dispersed before anything could happen.
Police and security would not let members of the Clippers players head towards the Rockets locker room where friends and family usually congregate outside the "Chairman's Lounge."
"I don't know nothing about that," said Clippers' guard Lou Williams after the game. "You won't get a quote from me about that."
Harden and an entourage of friends also tried to go after Rivers in the locker room.
Eventually, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Johnson all left through that area, but Austin Rivers did not.
I walked with Blake Griffin to the players area (near the Commodore room) after the game. Security allowed him through with no problems. Austin Rivers was not. #ItTakesEverything #Rockets— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) January 16, 2018
The altercation first began on the court where Rivers, dressed in a suit, was on the sidelines during the game as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Rivers could be seen throughout the game trash talking players on the Rockets, and exchanged words with Ariza in the fourth quarter just before Ariza and Griffin were ejected with just over a minute left in the game.
After the game, Griffin would jokingly say that Ariza had asked him if he was still coming to his birthday party, but that Griffin was still not sure if he was going to attend.
Things were chippy throughout the game, but they reached another level late in the fourth quarter when Griffin scored a basket with just over three minutes remaining in the game after he was fouled by Paul under the basket.
Paul immediately protested the call with the refs and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni appeared to exchange expletives with Griffin.
After the game, D'Antoni said that Griffin "hit him with an elbow," and that's why they exchanged language. Referees issued both Griffin and D'Antoni for double technicals and then Griffin was ejected two minutes later after getting into it with Ariza.
Hours after the game, players from both teams sent out some hilarious tweets, memes and GIFs, subtlety, or sometimes not so subtlety, addressing the incident.
Rockets walking into the Clippers locker room like... pic.twitter.com/909tL8esfa— Melo Jello (@PrimeME7O) January 16, 2018
pic.twitter.com/BNAcs1Hfjh— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) January 16, 2018
It’s a different culture in LA. No more soft shit here!!!!!— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) January 16, 2018