As the NBA gathers information for its investigation into the events surrounding the bombastic LA Clippers–Houston Rockets game on Monday night, forward Trevor Ariza has been further isolated as the person most responsible for the Rockets’ postgame charge into the Clippers’ locker room, league sources told ESPN.
Nevertheless, there are those on the Clippers’ side who still insist that Paul — in his return game after six turbulent seasons in Los Angeles — eagerly entered the home locker room through a backdoor entrance with Ariza, Harden and teammate Gerald Green.
The NBA interviewed multiple executives, coaches, players and security on Tuesday and plan further conversations on Wednesday, league sources said.
“We were where we were supposed to be,” Griffin said Monday night. “We were in our locker room. So whatever happens over there, I mean, we can’t control what anybody else does. We control what we did. Everybody was in our seats. That’s it. You should ask them.”
The Clippers’ coaching staff was in a separate room, heard the ruckus and rushed out — only to see its former point guard, Paul, getting pushed back out and into the hallway, sources said. On a night that the Clippers organization played a video montage to honor Paul’s six seasons here, the fractured relationships that led to his departure in June percolated in the raucous fallout of the night.
The Rockets players were filled with a greater animus for Rivers, sources told ESPN, because they insist that he had been especially belligerent from the bench in the late stages of the Clippers’ victory. Out with an ankle injury and wearing a suit, Rivers was reveling in Griffin’s dominant performance of 29 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Once Griffin became entangled with several Rockets, Rivers’ verbiage appeared to become more aggressive.
Griffin unleashed on the Rockets in the final minutes of the game, brushing past Mike D’Antoni and inspiring the Rockets coach to scream “F— you” at him. Griffin, as he was falling out of bounds, fired a loose ball off the back of Eric Gordon, and seconds later, he engaged in a skirmish with Ariza that led to double technical fouls and an ejection with 1 minute, 3 seconds left.
On his way off the court and toward the tunnel that leads into the locker room, Griffin high-fived his Clippers teammates, ripped off his No. 32 jersey and tossed it into the stands. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer stood a few feet away, howling with the crowd.
As the drama unfolded later, Rockets center Clint Capela walked down the main corridor and banged on the front entrance to the Clippers’ locker room, league sources said. Soon, a Clippers staff member opened the door and looked up to see Capela, a formidable 6-foot-10 figure, standing in the doorway.
She shut the door in Capela’s face. For a few moments, Capela stood there, unsure how to proceed. Before long, Capela walked back to the Rockets’ locker room, showered and headed for the bus with the rest of the Rockets.