The NBA is reviewing events during and after Sunday's game between the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Hornets for possible sanctions after tensions ran high all night between star guards Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul.
The league office confirmed Monday night that a formal review has been opened after Paul and Rondo tangled under the basket in the second quarter, resulting in each player being assessed a technical foul. Media accounts from the game also suggested that Rondo and Paul exchanged heated words after the final buzzer that eventually prompted Paul to try to follow Rondo off the floor.
According to the Boston Globe, Rondo approached Paul while the Hornets' guard and Boston's Paul Pierce were exchanging post-game handshakes. The Globe reported that shouting ensued and that the two guards had to be separated.
According to The Associated Press game story, Paul later tried to walk toward the Boston locker room as the Celtics were filing off the court before Celtics assistants stopped him. The AP reported that Hornets coach Byron Scott then came over to retrieve him.
Via his Twitter feed Monday, Paul said: "... [Just] to clear this up I never came close to approaching the Celts locker room last [night]. Not sure where that's coming from. Also me [and Celtics assistant coach Tom] Thibodeau never got in a shouting match. We talked. ... [Too] much respect for him, crazy how it's twisted."
Scott said the league didn't call to interview him about the incident and he didn't ask Paul much about it.
"I think there comes a point in time in a game or even after a game when somebody says something to you, and the only thing I heard Chris say at the end of the game when we were walking off was that, 'He's going to respect me as a man," Scott said. "So I don't know what Rondo said, but obviously Chris took exception to it."
After Boston's 97-87 victory, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss advised reporters before Rondo's post-game address that "Rajon has requested you not ask anything about Chris Paul now, tomorrow, or any other time."
Said Paul after totaling 22 points and eight assists in the loss: "I think Rondo's a lucky guy to be able to play with a guy like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and [Kevin Garnett], Rasheed Wallace."
Asked if that was meant as a slight toward Rondo, the two-time All-Star said: "Like I said, man, he's a great point guard. He has won an NBA championship, something I hope to achieve."
Rondo looked back at Paul as he walked to the Celtics' locker room after the final buzzer sounded, according to the AP, but kept going. The Globe reported that Rondo was ushered into the tunnel by Celtics director of security Phil Lynch, while Paul and Thibodeau continued their conversation.
"The game's over; you just want everybody to clear the floor," Allen said. "They're both feisty. They're both aggressive, in your face. It can get pretty chippy out there.
"But you have to be able to walk off the floor and say: 'Way to compete tonight. For those 48 minutes, I cannot stand you. I wanted to fight you. I wanted to do everything I could.' And when you walk off the floor, you say, 'Way to battle.'"
The NBA may have to take a look at another play involving Paul from Monday's game. Al Harrington came up with a loose ball in a scramble after a New Orleans turnover with about 5½ minutes remaining. Paul appeared to hit him in the head while they were on the floor fighting for the ball, but Harrington was able to maintain possession.
"When I dove, my head hit his knee," Harrington said. "He might have slipped a couple of jabs in there. It didn't affect me. You know I fight in the summer, so it's all good."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.