A Haverhill man was arrested after he attempted to punch Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo at a Lowell nightclub early Saturday morning, Lowell Police said yesterday.
Eric Valarezo, 31, was arrested for disorderly conduct by officers who responded to a report of a fight at Brian’s Ivy Hall at about 1:43 a.m. Saturday, police said.
Rondo and fellow National Basketball Association players Josh Smith, a forward for the Atlanta Hawks, and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Nate Robinson were at the club for what the owner, Kevin Hayhurst, called a “promotional event” that started Friday night and continued into early Saturday.
Hayhurst said that 450 people were at the club on Merrimack Street, filling it to near capacity. The Celtics star appeared on a stage with Smith, who played with Rondo in high school, and Robinson, a former Boston teammate, Hayhurst said.
As Rondo and a small entourage cut through the crowd toward the exit moments before the venue closed at 2 a.m., Valarezo allegedly tried to punch the 25-year-old Celtics player, police said.
No one was injured, according to police. Valarezo is expected to be arraigned in Lowell District Court today, authorities said.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office referred questions to Lowell Police yesterday who declined to comment further. A Celtics spokesman declined to comment because, due to the league’s ongoing lockout, he said the team has no contact with players.
Reached by phone, Valarezo said he had not recognized Rondo and said that the 6-foot, 1-inch, 171-pound Celtics guard had started the altercation.
“He basically assaulted me by pushing me,” Valarezo said. “I pushed him back in defense, and he started swinging at me.”
Hayhurst, the club owner, said Rondo and his crew, which included body guards, “didn’t seem aggressive at any point during the night.”
“I didn’t notice them being excessive,” as the celebrity group moved from a VIP section through the packed building toward the exit, Hayhurst said by phone yesterday. “But, if [Valarezo] had his back turned and was bumped out of the way, that may have set him off.”
He said the club had extra police detail and security because of the NBA players’ presence. Valarezo was almost immediately pinned to the floor by security, escorted outside and arrested, Hayhurst said.
“It lasted all of about 30 seconds,” he said.
Valarezo said he had gone to the club to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and was not aware that the Celtics star was in the building.
“Basically, I didn’t even know it was him,” said Valarezo.
He said he is originally from Methuen, works in the medical field and “is not really a sports person, which is why I didn’t recognize him.”
“[Rondo] should have been arrested, but, of course, since he’s a star he got away with it,” Valarezo said.
The club owner said Rondo drank only water and Valarezo did not appear intoxicated.
“[Rondo] was pretty shy. He just sat in the corner drinking Fiji Water,” said Hayhurst. “He wasn’t signing anything or taking any pictures with anyone.”
As fellow starters Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce near the end of their veteran careers, Rondo is poised to become the face of the Boston franchise.
In his second of five professional seasons, the the two-time NBA All-Star helped the Celtics win a league-leading 17th championship. In fall 2009, Rondo signed a five-year, $55-million extension to keep him with the organization through the 2014-2015 season. He has said he is not considering signing overseas during the ongoing NBA lockout.