Carmelo Anthony heads the list of NBA players suspended after Saturday night’s melee at Madison Square Garden.
The Denver Nuggets were the bigger losers Monday after the NBA handed out penalties in the fight that broke out near the end of Saturday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer, was suspended 15 games for sucker-punching the Knicks’ Mardy Collins. Denver teammate J.R. Smith and New York’s Nate Robinson also received stiff penalties from the league — 10-game suspensions.
“It is our obligation to take the strongest possible steps to avoid such failures in the future and to make a statement to all who follow the game of basketball that we understand our obligations and take them seriously,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement.
But there was no separate penalty for Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, who had warned Anthony not to go into the lane before the mayhem started Saturday night. There was speculation Thomas would be penalized for his comments to Anthony. Stern acknowledged hearing about it, but said he relied only on “definitive information” when handing out punishments.
The NBA, still trying to repair its image after the brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans two years ago, also fined the Nuggets and Knicks $500,000 apiece. Stern said the fines to the organizations are meant to show he is serious about cleaning up the game. “It’s a more general message that I’m going to start holding our teams accountable,” Stern said.
Collins, whose hard foul of Smith was the flashpoint for the fight, was suspended for six games. Knicks forward Jared Jeffries was suspended for four games, and New York’s Jerome James and Denver’s Nene were hit with one-game penalties for leaving their respective benches during an on-court altercation.
Thomas had a discussion with Anthony about 20 seconds before Collins delivered an arms-around-the-neck foul on Smith on a breakaway basket. Though Thomas acknowledged telling Anthony not to go into the paint, he said he meant it not as a threat but as a lecture on sportsmanship.
“I don’t regret fouling him as hard as I did, I just regret that the whole thing escalated the way it did,” Collins said Monday. “I was out there competing and I didn’t want the guy to get a layup and I was basically trying to stop him from going in the air. That’s why I fouled him that hard, so he wouldn’t get hurt.”
After the game, which Denver won 123-100, Thomas and Knicks players were angry that the Nuggets had four starters on the floor with 1:15 to play. And while Thomas wouldn’t say if Denver coach George Karl was trying to embarrass the Knicks, he again stressed that starters shouldn’t have been in the game. “I can’t speak for him, but he put his players in a tough position,” Thomas said. “I think he put his players in a very bad position.”
All 10 players on the floor were ejected after the brawl.
Frankly, while the $500,000 fines are substantial, the League has fired Mark Cuban more than that for things far less detrimental to the game’s image. And a six game suspension for a cheap shot that could have seriously injured another player is light, indeed.
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