The two former Boston Celtics point guards got tangled up, exchanged words and were handed double technical fouls before being ejected in the first quarter of the New Orleans Pelicans' 139-117 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Rondo aggressively hounded Thomas' every move, even during stoppage in play late in the first quarter, before the two had to be separated and were tossed with 33.3 seconds left.
Thomas said Rondo hit him in the face three times and brought up the video tribute the Celtics had planned for him earlier this season. That video became a source of controversy because the Celtics had planned it on the same day as Paul Pierce's jersey retirement ceremony, which took place in Boston this past Sunday.
"Whatever reason, he's an upset guy about me," Thomas said after Wednesday's game. "I don't know what it is, but it's fine. He kept bringing the tribute up, when I was the one that shut the tribute down. I'm far past that. ... For me to be ejected was uncalled for."
Asked if he has had any other history with Rondo, Thomas said he didn't know.
"I mean, my team beat his team in the playoffs last year," Thomas said, referring to the Celtics beating the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the first round last postseason. "Maybe that is what's wrong. I don't know. There's nothing. Nothing should've made that escalate like it did. He already had his agenda written down right when I checked into the game. It was obvious. He picked me up full court, trying to be physical.
"I don't know what was going on with him. I don't know why I got thrown out. I don't want to comment too much on it. ... It was obvious what was going on. He was being too aggressive for whatever reason, and he also hit me in the face three times. At some point, as a human, if no one is going to protect me, I got to protect myself, and that is when I spoke up and got upset. I hope the NBA figures something out with that, because it was wrong for me to be ejected."
Rondo, who did not talk to the media after the game, questioned last month why the Celtics were going to give Thomas a video tribute on the same night as Pierce's jersey ceremony. Rondo played in Boston for eight-plus seasons, winning an NBA title in 2008, and was traded shortly before Thomas was acquired by the Celtics in a deal later in the 2014-15 season. Thomas played three seasons for the Celtics before he was traded to Cleveland before this season.
"What has he done?" Rondo told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in January. When told that Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals last season, Rondo said, "Oh, that's what we celebrate around here?"
"This is the Boston Celtics," Rondo said. "This isn't the Phoenix Suns. No disrespect to any other organization, but you don't hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?"
Thomas said he was surprised by Rondo's comments last month about the video tribute.
"I think a lot of people were [surprised]," Thomas said. "I think the world made it bigger than what it was. Everybody who's been on a team for a while has gotten a video tribute. Patrick Beverley got one in Houston. Chris Paul got one with the Clippers. It's like, they didn't win no championship, but it's just the respect thing."
"[Rondo] said what he said, I laughed it off," Thomas continued. "It was what it was. I'm the one that stopped the video tribute from happening because I wanted Paul Pierce to have his full night. I didn't want to take nothing from him. I know [Rondo] played on Paul Pierce's team. He's gonna always have Paul Pierce's back, which is fine. I didn't lose sleep over it. It was obvious [that it] continued to be brought up with what happened tonight."
The ejections didn't stop there.
Lakers coach Luke Walton, who said his frustrations had been building up in part because of the officials letting the Thomas-Rondo situation escalate, was tossed with 1:38 left in the second quarter. The ejection came after he screamed expletives and walked past the half-court line to argue with an official for giving Kyle Kuzma a technical foul, after the Lakers rookie demonstratively jumped in the air after being called for a foul.
"I can [talk about it], but I'm going to choose not to," Walton said. "There was a lot of things that I was frustrated about at that point and I just had had enough at that moment."
Walton said he joined Thomas in the locker room, and the two watched the second half of the Lakers' loss together.
"I try not to isolate when I am angry, so I went and found someone to watch the game with," Walton said. "From my standpoint on [the Rondo-Thomas ejections], I thought Isaiah did everything he could to not get caught up in it, and they let it just keep going and going and going and in my opinion took the easy way out -- just waited so they could give a double-T instead of calling it as it was happening. ... That was part of the frustration I had built up."
Thomas was playing in only his second game with the Lakers since last week's trade with Cleveland, which sent him, Channing Frye and a protected first-round pick to L.A. in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
Thomas said he wants the NBA to rescind his two technical fouls after he finished with three points and two assists in five minutes on Wednesday. Rondo had four points, five assists and three rebounds in eight minutes.
"It felt like they were waiting for me to get upset," Thomas said of the officials. "I got hit in the face three times, and the third time I got hit in my face, I reacted and tried to tell the refs, 'Are you guys going to control this?'
"I definitely need to get those technical fouls rescinded."