Houston Rockets head coach Ime Udoka was ejected from his team’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night after a sideline spat with LeBron James. The two traded words right in front of an official, which led to technicals for both men and an ejection for Udoka, who had previously received a technical foul in the second quarter.
Neither was inclined to divulge what exactly what transpired.
“We had some conversation and [the refs] didn’t like what they heard,” Udoka said.
James, meanwhile, joked that it was a friendly conversation and the two were discussing “how much we enjoyed Thanksgiving.”
What we do know is early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets were coming down on a fastbreak when Alperen Sengun got away with an awkward shuffle of the feet, which James and Co. believed was a travel. Instead, the possession ended with free throws for Tari Eason, and during the break in the action, Udoka took the opportunity to share some thoughts with the Lakers legend. James took offense and the two were eventually T’d up.
In a courtside video of the interaction taken by a fan, you can hear James seemingly say “don’t use that word so loosely.”
Another video posted online claiming to leak the audio appears to show Udoka using the word “b—-.” That would track with James’ direction not to use a word loosely, especially considering that James previously got upset with Draymond Green for using it during the 2016 NBA Finals.
In any case, James and the Lakers got the last laugh, as they cruised to a comfortable 10-point win over the Rockets, which kept Udoka’s club winless on the road this season. Perhaps upset with that ignominious record, the Rockets’ poor performance, his beef with James, or some combination of the three, Udoka took out his frustration on his team.
“To kind of get punked by a team that’s not known for physicality or punking people is not a good sign,” Udoka remarked.
The Lakers dominated around the basket all night long, outscoring the Rockets 54-34 in the paint and 13-8 on second-chance points, and earning 27 free throws.
With their third consecutive defeat, the Rockets fell to 10th place in the Western Conference at 8-9 on the season. They remain the only team in the league without a win on the road; even the lowly Detroit Pistons, who have lost 17 games in a row, have been victorious away from home.