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Group Chat: The Brawl in the Hall (Minus an Actual Brawl)

A roundtable discussion about the Rockets and Clippers’ wild night at Staples Center

Blake Griffin pointing and yelling at two Rockets players Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Monday night’s reunion between Chris Paul and his former team became the shoving match heard around the world. After several altercations on the court — including Blake Griffin hitting Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, the coach alleged; former teammates Griffin and Paul jawing; ejections for Griffin and Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Austin Rivers getting involved for some reason — the fracas reportedly spilled backstage, where four Rockets players, per several reports, traversed a back hallway at Staples Center in an attempt to confront the Clippers in the home locker room.

The Ringer staff talked out the feud and all of its subplots in a Slack channel Tuesday morning.


Chris Ryan: Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble. Or at least bark loudly about rumbling. Rockets-Clippers: the Altercation. Haley broke down all the beefs here, and Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins did a detailed tick-tock of all the locker-room drama here.

Juliet Litman: Is there any precedent for the ripping of compression tights? I think Trevor Ariza may be a leader in the space.

Ryan: Obviously, we’re glad that no one got hurt and things didn’t get too out of hand (although it sounds like things got pretty out of hand!). We would have had to come up with a whole nickname for the fight. The Rumble in the Tunnel? The Brawl in the Hall?

I don’t think there’s any precedent, but Blake getting his compression shorts ripped is quite a metaphor for his career.

Jason Concepcion: Hello. I’d like to point out that last night the president of the players’ union used his knowledge of Staples Center to lead his new team through a tunnel to fight, among others, his former coach’s son, who didn’t even play in the game.

Paolo Uggetti: The compression shorts were definitely made from the same material the new Nike jerseys are.

Concepcion: Also, putting that much effort into trying to locate and fight Austin Rivers, but not managing to fight him, is THE metaphor for Chris Paul’s career.

Justin Verrier: Halsey (HALL-see) was at a Clippers game the other day. That can’t be a coincidence.

Ryan: This is the New Americana, brother.

Jonathan Tjarks: On a scale of 1 to 10, how funny would it be if the Clippers were to beat the Rockets in a playoff series? 15? It’s not going to happen, but I need this first-round series. I need Austin Rivers trying to take CP3 off the dribble. I need a Patrick Beverley revenge series. And I need Griffin and Paul to guard each other in switches late in the games. Inject this directly into my veins.

Bill Simmons: I was there, and you could feel it coming all game. I knew that the Clips had had a complicated relationship with Chris over the years, but they were in Fuck-You Mode from the moment that game started. The energy in the building was not unlike what will happen when Chris Ryan leaves The Ringer someday and Concepcion and Jason Gallagher end up rumbling with him.

Rodger Sherman: Truly sad to see the office of the president of the players’ union degraded so thoroughly. This never would’ve happened under … Derek Fisher???

Concepcion: Paul should have something written into the next CBA that says players 32 and over can fight their ex-coaches’ sons.

Litman: Per Lee Jenkins, Chris Paul was the leader of a second faction looking for Blake, not Austin. I think this is crucial. It’s like Locke vs. Jack in Lost.

Concepcion: I don’t totally buy that. It’s the “reading Playboy for the articles” excuse, but NBA-fight version.

Ryan: Yeah, what was everyone’s favorite detail from last night?

Sherman: For me, it’s the inclusion of Clint Capela as the diversion to knock on the front door.

Ryan: SWISS, SWISS, BISH. TM JUSTIN VERRIER.

Sherman: It means there was actual scheming as to the most effective way to break into the locker room.

Uggetti: Clint Capela is one of our generation’s greatest pacifists, apparently.

Haley O’Shaughnessy: For me, it’s imagining how it came up that Clint should go distract the Clippers.

Ryan: I think it means Capela is polite!

Concepcion: That Gerald Green was involved despite being a Rocket for 20 days.

Sherman: It’s like how the Allies tricked the Germans into believing the D-Day landing was coming at Calais.

Verrier: There’s a chance that Capela just wanted to visit Sam Dekker.

Ryan: PARDON ME, WOULD YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE SOME LEMON-LIME GATORADE, AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THESE HANDS?

Isaac Lee: The Swiss are always “neutral.”

Concepcion: Gerald was ready to rock as soon as that contract went guaranteed.

Ryan: That’s the funny thing, right? Even though Green was on the team for about three weeks, most of these guys know each other really well. Half of them have played together, or grew up together (lot of L.A. dudes), or hate Blake together.

Sherman: Was the plan for Capela to infiltrate the locker room, or was he sheer decoy?

Tjarks: One of these teams needs to sign Dahntay Jones.

Tjarks: We need a Stephen Jackson “about this life” power ranking for end-of-the-bench goons.

Uggetti: I think the fact that CP3 (or someone else!) had to have gathered the entire team in the locker room and thought this out like it was a secret ops mission to strike at dawn is incredible.

Chris Almeida: But then they didn’t even fight!!

Simmons: There are three crucial angles from last night. The first was how goofy/surreal the last few minutes were, followed by Late-Night Basketball Twitter and Chuck-Shaq carrying the next hour or so. The second is that it should always be legal to fight Austin Rivers after a game in which he’s wearing a suit and talking all kinds of shit. But the third angle, which is now obscured by all the postgame craziness, is how much more fun the Clippers are without Chris Paul. They move the ball 100 times better. They’re 20 times more unpredictable. Doc has been forced to coach and make adjustments and rely on young guys. And for anyone going to the games, it’s just more fun to watch Milos Teodosic and Lou Williams than Chris Paul. Part of what was driving the Clippers last night was that they’re happier playing basketball than they were the past few years — he had way too much of a hold over everything and everyone, and they resented him for it. I really believe that. You could feel it last night.

Tjarks: There’s only so long Napoleon can general your army.

Sherman: Nobody has ever fought in an NBA game. The Malice at the Palace was filmed on the same lot as the moon landing as anti–NBA player propaganda to allow David Stern to enforce a dress code.

Concepcion: Chris couldn’t even get his squad past the second door of the locker room.

Uggetti: That’s why my (wordy) title for this whole ordeal is “Backdoor Run and Cover.”

Verrier: I still might side with Paul over Blake. Having to even watch Blake for 82 games is insufferable.

O’Shaughnessy: When does he go 82 full games?

Tjarks: I’m Team Blake all the way; he’s not durable enough to build around but it feels like he’d be more fun to play with. There’s a 5-foot-5 point guard I play pickup basketball with who dribbles the ball into the ground and karate-chops bigger players whenever they go to the lane. It’s miserable.

Simmons: It’s shocking how much of Blake’s game is below the rim these days. Last night I was getting flashbacks to what happened to LJ 20 years ago.

Sherman: How much do NBA players know about the schematics of their home stadia? Could the average NBA player pull a heist at the arena of their ex-team if they wanted to?

Concepcion: I feel like Blake hasn’t gotten enough credit for cutting out the on-court antics like throwing ice on fans and pushing the head of his friend toward his crotch before eventually punching him outside of an Italian restaurant. He doesn’t do that stuff anymore.

Verrier: He just rage-complains for the entire game.

Tjarks: And Paul doesn’t?

Lee: ^^^^

CP3 was the genesis of complain-culture in Clipperland.

Uggetti: Blake off the court > Blake on the court.

Simmons: I think Blake is the single most hated NBA opponent by other teams, and what’s funny is Austin Rivers might be second. They need to trade for Dellavedova.

Litman: FYI: Blake and Kendall are cooling off, per The Daily Mail.

Verrier: Everything with Paul is calculated. He’s working the refs to gain an advantage, as annoying as it may be aesthetically. Blake is a teakettle ready to explode on anyone. It’s different.

Concepcion: Doc’s entire coaching ethos is a series of curated grievances.

This man put cash in the ceiling of an opposing arena once.

Sherman: Specifically the Staples visiting locker room, right? Is there a secret passageway leading to the ceiling vault where Doc left that money? How did it stay there all season?

Ryan: “We’re honoring Martin Luther King Day,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re nonviolent.”

DOC!

Litman: Was DeAndre Jordan at the game?

Litman: I didn’t see him on the bench.

Verrier: DeAndre was there, and seems like he still gets along with Chris. Which I find telling.

Uggetti: He was.

Litman: Definitely telling, Justin! The one guy in the most trade rumors playing it safe. How smart, DJ.

Simmons: If Mike D had thrown down with Blake, that would have been the NBA’s greatest coach-player fight since Al Attles was thrown out of the 1974 Finals for fighting Kevin Grevey. It’s a shame we didn’t have Basketball Twitter back then.

Tjarks: There was also JVG grabbing onto the guy’s leg in Knicks-Heat.

Verrier: DeAndre will be in Cleveland by the time of the next game.

Lee: Justin, what are you saying?

Tjarks: Seems like Milwaukee has more pieces to make a trade. I can’t wait to see J-Kidd having DeAndre trap guys 30 feet from the basket.

Simmons: My biggest unanswered question: Did the postgame brouhaha interrupt Teodosic as he was having his postgame cigarette, or had he polished off that first Marlboro Red already?

Litman: Another logistical note: Pat Bev has been rehabbing in Houston but was back for this game. I think it was his first on the bench in a while.

Lee: Is there bad blood between Pat Bev and the Rox?

Uggetti: There is bad blood between Pat Bev and everyone not on his team.

He speaks the bad blood into existence.

Tjarks: Also, between him and every team (which is all of them) who overlooked him.

Uggetti:

This was savage.

Tjarks: The best punch he threw all night.

Concepcion: I would just like to state once again that Chris Paul is the president of the players’ union.

Verrier: Related DeAndre content.

Lee: Justin, stop.

Verrier: I hear that Tristan Thompson has a nice coat collection, Isaac. It’ll be great.

Simmons: I went to the game with Daryl Morey last night, and he joked that the worst thing about making so many trades over the years is that every Rockets game now sets up a Revenge Game for the other team. Last night was a Quadruple Revenge Game. Even Sam Dekker got involved and played well enough that Doc Rivers stopped yelling at him for three minutes.

Verrier: Daryl is the true savage here.

Any final thoughts?

Uggetti: The NBA is the best. The memes from this night alone will carry us to the trade deadline.

Lee: I love the dark Clippers. I want them to rebrand as the Bad Boy Clippers and embrace villainy.

Concepcion: Prediction: The Clippers will knock the Rockets out of the playoffs behind Lou’s 40 PPG average as CP3 watches in street clothes.

Baumann: I want to know what happens if the Rockets pull off their pincer movement and get into the locker room, since there are more people in this Slack than there were in last night’s raiding party.

Tjarks: I don’t know, the Clips might be feeling more unified, but they still probably don’t have Austin Rivers back.

Lee: That’s the point, Tjarks, we’re BEST when Austin Rivers is not playing.

Sherman: At first I disliked the premise, but now that 73 percent of all NBA beef stems from the fact that Doc Rivers chooses to employ his child as a professional basketball player, I approve of Austin Rivers’s presence on the Clippers.

Lee: As I said last night: It’s always Austin Rivers’s fault, even when it’s not — the reverse Lonzo effect.

Verrier:

Democracy!

John Gonzalez: Soooooo they’re not gonna retire CP3’s jersey?

Lee: They should hang Blake’s torn compression tights in the rafters before CP3’s jersey.