NBA Benches Seven After Brawl in New York

Seven players, including the NBA's leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, are suspended for participating in a melee Saturday at New York's Madison Square Garden. The suspensions were the most severe since the infamous 2004 brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. The NBA is still dealing with the repercussions of that incident.

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NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony has been suspended 15 games for his role in a brawl this past weekend involving the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. The league also suspended six other players and fined both teams half a million dollars each.

NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the penalties today on a conference call. He also sought to limit fall out from the brawl to the league and its image.

NPR's Tom Goldman has more.

TOM GOLDMAN: Commissioner Stern knows that in the high speed, high intensity NBA, players will commit hard fouls on other players, and there will be emotional reactions to those moments.

Mr. DAVID STERN (NBA Commissioner): You, sort of, expect that you understand. And then, people step in and pull them apart. What happened Saturday night was it didn't stop there.

GOLDMAN: After New York's Mardy Collins horse-collared Denver's J.R. Smith as Smith drives to the basket, the incident escalated with players tumbling in the courtside seats, and most notably, Denver star Carmelo Anthony punching Collins in the face. As Anthony backpedaled, New York's Jared Jeffries pursued him in a rage, but was ultimately restrained.

Stern suspended Anthony for 15 games. The two players who tumbled into the seats got 10 game-suspensions. Collins, the original fouler, got six, Jeffries, four, and two players were banned one game for leaving the bench. Stern said his main message was this - incidents cannot escalate anymore.

Mr. STERNS: And we are going to go after the players who aren't able to stop, despite the fact that they have referees standing in front of them, and other people hanging on to them that it becomes more important for them, for reasons that we'll analyze, to engage in fisticuffs that endanger reporters, photographers and fans.

GOLDMAN: Early analyses of what happened Saturday has focused on the tension bubbling just beneath the surface of Denver's blowout win at Madison Square Garden. Knicks players said they felt disrespected because several of the Nuggets' best players still were in the game at the very end, rubbing it in, the next player said. There were reports that New York Coach Isaiah Thomas ordered a hard foul as retaliation and video clearly shows him smiling and mouthing to one of the Nuggets, don't go near the basket right now. The NBA investigated the claims against Thomas but Stern did not penalize him.

Mr. STERNS: My finding was that there was not adequate evidence upon which to make a determination.

GOLDMAN: Which left Nuggets Coach George Karl incensed. Monday in Denver, he was quoted as saying Thomas committed a premeditated act, and Karl reportedly called Thomas a jackass. If bad blood continues between the coaches and teams, it will certainly make Stern's efforts at damage control that much tougher.

The fight has rekindled not-too-distant memories of the infamous brawl two years ago in Detroit between the Pistons and Indiana Pacers. Despite Stern's effort Monday to characterize the NBA as a charitable and socially responsible league, he acknowledges some fans simply will see Saturday night as more of the same.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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