NBA suspends Pacers' Artest for rest of season after Detroit brawl
NBA Commissioner David Stern's statement accompanying the announcement of suspensions for Friday night's Pacers-Pistons brawl: "The penalties issued today deal only with one aspect of this incident -- that of player misconduct. The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players. We must affirm that the NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports, and not allow our sport to be debased by what seem to be declining expectations for behavior of fans and athletes alike. "There are other issues that the NBA must urgently focus on at this time. First, we must redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds. Participants in and around the court must be assured complete protection from unacceptable fan behavior. Second, we must re-examine the adequacy of our current security procedures in Detroit and our other 28 arenas. The actions at Friday's game, though unprecedented, must now be factored into all efforts to guarantee the well-being of our fans. Third, we must develop and implement new NBA rules to assure that the unavoidable confrontations likely to occur in the heat of competition are not allowed to escalate to the level we witnessed on Friday even prior to the egregious behavior by individuals in the stands."
Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season Sunday, and two of his Indiana Pacers teammates must miss a total of 55 games for fighting with fans during a melee that broke out at the end of a game against the Detroit Pistons.
Overall, the NBA issued some of the harshest penalties in its history by banning nine players for more than 140 games. Artest's suspension is the strongest ever levied for a fight during a game.
"The line is drawn, and my guess is that won't happen again -- certainly not by anybody who wants to be associated with our league," commissioner David Stern said.
Indiana's Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25. Detroit's Ben Wallace -- whose shove of Artest after a foul led to the five-minute fracas -- drew a six-game ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got five games.
"I'm sick about that for Indiana. I'm devastated for them," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "And we lost our heart and soul."
Four players -- Indiana's Reggie Miller, and Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman -- were suspended one game apiece for leaving the bench during the initial fracas.
All of the suspensions are without pay. Artest will lose approximately $5 million in salary, while O'Neal's suspension will cost him nearly 25 percent of his $14.8 million salary for the current season.
Players union director Billy Hunter, calling the penalties excessive, said an appeal would be filed Monday.
"We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games," Stern said. "One of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."
Artest, O'Neal and Jackson began serving their suspensions Saturday.
Artest's penalty was the most severe because of his checkered history. Artest being provoked into running into the stands by a fan who threw a drink did not appear to be a mitigating factor in Stern's decision.
"It was unanimous, one to nothing," Stern said. "I did not strike from my mind the fact that Ron Artest had been suspended on previous conditions for loss of self-control."
The Pacers will be able to place Artest, O'Neal and Jackson on the suspended list and sign players to take their place. Limited to just six players Saturday, Indiana dropped an 86-83 decision to Orlando.
Billups, Coleman and Campbell served their suspensions Sunday. Wallace will be eligible to return Dec. 3 against San Antonio.
Stern took the unusual step of calling a news conference at Madison Square Garden prior to the Knicks-Cavaliers game to announce the suspensions, commenting that Friday night's fracas represented "the worst" of the 20,000 to 25,000 games he has presided over in his more than two decades as commissioner.
SI.com's Marty Burns
As expected, David Stern came down hard on the principals in Friday's Pacers-Pistons brawl. Now the Commish better be prepared for a fight of his own. The Pacers and the players union, in particular, are likely to howl over this decision. The Pacers will say they're being made scapegoats. The players union will file appeals. Both sides will claim the NBA is putting PR over true justiceSI.com's Phil Taylor
David Stern's decision to take away the rest of Ron Artest's season might be a little extreme, but Artest will find no sympathy here. Artest has made a career of going to extremes, and he deserves a taste of his own medicine. Stern could have sent the necessary anti-violence message by suspending Artest for 30 or 40 games instead of the entire year. That certainly would have been enough to make players think twice in the future before going into the stands. But by dropping the hammer he has told Artest, and any other player who might be inclined to imitate his trouble-making act, that his instigating, antagonistic, hot-tempered ways will not be tolerated.Artest surely had no idea that his hard foul on Ben Wallace would lead to the worst brawl in NBA history, but that's just the point. His constant attempts to stir up trouble on the court can lead to unintended consequences, and it's about time he suffered some of them. Stern may have had a second, more pragmatic purpose in handing down such harsh penalties -- it gives him a cushion once the NBA Players Association launches its inevitable challenge to the suspensions. Even if the union succeeds in getting an arbitrator to whittle the number of games down a bit, Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal will still serve a sufficiently stiff and justified penalty.The union will probably adopt the argument that has already been put forth in some quarters that Artest was just defending himself, which is nonsense. He wasn't fending off some imminent danger, he was ticked off because someone had doused him with a drink. Artest didn't go into the stands for self-defense, he went in for retaliation. There?s a huge difference. Artest will have plenty of time to think about that difference over the next several months. By the time he comes back the NBA will undoubtedly have enacted several measures to make sure the ugliness of last Friday won't be repeated. But the league took the first, most important step with Stern's bold move. Removing Ron Artest from the league automatically makes it a safer place.
"To watch the out-of-control fans in the stands was disgusting, but it doesn't excuse our players going into the stands," Stern said, promising a wide-ranging review that will encompass everything from security procedures to alcohol sales at arenas.
"We have to do everything possible to redefine the covenant between players and fans, and between fans and fans, and make sure we can play our games in very welcoming and peaceful settings," he said.
The NBA also has to "redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds," Stern said.
For Sunday night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats -- Detroit's first outing since the melee -- the Pistons doubled the number of armed police to about 20 in the arena and increased other arena security personnel by about 25 percent.
When some spectators lined up to take pictures with Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter on the court before the game, two police officers stood just a few feet away.
Friday night's brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and Jackson bolting into the stands near center court and throwing punches at fans after debris was tossed at the players.
Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by Artest and O'Neal. Players who entered the stands and tried to act as peacemakers were not penalized.
Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are investigating possible criminal charges.
Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove to Artest after Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with 45.9 seconds remaining. After the fight ended, the referees called off the rest of the game.
The initial skirmish wasn't all that bad, with Artest retreating to the scorer's table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him reeling backward. But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.
Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.
"Mr. Jackson was well into the stands, and certainly anyone who watched any television this weekend understood he wasn't going in as a peacemaker," Stern said. "Jermaine, I think it's fair to say, exceeded any bounds of peacemaking with the altercation with the fan in which he was involved.
"His penalty actually would have been harsher if he had succeeded in getting into his stands, which he tried to do but was restrained from."
wtf is wrong with the nba and the fans in detroit. this should actually be two seperate questions. first, good for the nba for tossing artest. hes a piece of crap who cultivates the bad boy image. hes a thug and hes getting what he deserves. didnt he want some time off anyway to be a record producer. you want to be a gangsta...then theres no room for you in the nba. and then theres detroit. can those assholes do anything but riot. i know that the auto industry went south and your biggest export is blow and canadian whores but kets get it together. its alright to celebrate your teams championship without burning down a significant part of your city (though a good burning might help). its also ok to watch a fight at a game without joining in.