Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard empathized with Isaiah Stewart after the Detroit Pistons center's brief scuffle with LeBron James on Sunday.
Howard told GQ's Tyler R. Tynes he didn't think Stewart was in the right but that his reaction was understandable in the circumstances:
"In his defense, you gotta stand up for yourself. Now, was it the right time and place to do that? No. But you can't tell somebody how to react in a moment like that. Now, he also did a lot. He was enraged and upset. I can't say what he did was right, but I do understand it. Somebody hit me in my mouth and made me bleed? I'd be pissed off too. A little pride and ego probably kicked in too: you in front of 20,000 people, you bleeding from ya lip and ya eye, you don't ever want to look like that. I get most of why his reaction was the way it was."
James and Stewart were ejected in the third quarter prior to the Lakers' 121-116 victory over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. James was helping to box out Stewart when he struck 2020 first-round pick in the face.
The two began arguing, and Stewart needed to be held back on multiple occasions as he attempted to confront James further.
James declined to speak with reporters immediately after the game. Lakers star Anthony Davis addressed the matter and said LeBron didn't mean any ill intent with his swipe under the basket and initially attempted to apologize to Stewart:
On-court confrontations used to be more commonplace in the NBA. The Pistons built their reputation on their physical play during their "Bad Boys" era.
A generation or two ago, Stewart's charge at James probably would've been forgotten shortly after the game. The league has largely legislated fights out altogether, though, especially in the wake of the Malice at the Palace.
That left many to wonder what kind of punishment would be levied.
The NBA appeared to take Howard's view on the matter for the most part because it didn't drop the hammer on Stewart. He drew a two-game suspension, while James was forced to miss Los Angeles' 106-100 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Both players will be available when Detroit and Los Angeles meet at Staples Center on Sunday.