NBA Tries to Control Damage from Latest Drama A bench-clearing brawl during a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets has league officials doing serious damage control. A tangled web of rivalries and bad feelings led to Saturday's fight at Madison Square Garden.
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NBA Tries to Control Damage from Latest Drama

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NBA Tries to Control Damage from Latest Drama

NBA Tries to Control Damage from Latest Drama

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Madeleine Brand

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

The NBA has announced it is suspending its top scorer - that's Denver's Carmelo Anthony - for 15 games as punishment for a brawl he took part in over the weekend at Madison Square Garden. In all, seven players were penalized for the melee. Joining me now to talk about it is NPR's Luke Burbank. Hi, Luke.

LUKE BURBANK: Hi, Madeleine.

BRAND: Well, 15 games, that sounds like a lot.

BURBANK: Yeah, it is. But, you know, if you saw over the weekend, the tape of what happened, you kind of understand why the commissioner, David Stern, was not happy about this. You had, you know, Madison Square Garden, which is kind of this, you know, sacred place with the NBA. And, you know, guys pushing and pulling and throwing punches. I mean it was on like every channel all weekend long - the clips of it.

BRAND: I know, even I - not an avid sports fan - even I saw it.

BURBANK: Oh, if you saw it that means it's totally permeating the public consciousness. So, anyway, David Stern cannot be happy about that and so this 15 game suspension is definitely trying to send the message.

BRAND: OK. And I think we have a clip from the brawl. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of whistle blowing)

Unidentified Man #1: Smith - aw, there's a flagrant two foul. He's going to get thrown out of the game.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Unidentified Man #2: And now hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Unidentified Man #3: Nate Robinson throwing a punch, Smith throwing one back at him. This has turned ugly.

BURBANK: Yeah, it definitely - it turned ugly Madeleine. It was, you know, it started when the Denver Nuggets players were thought to be sort of showing up the Knicks players and then that whole thing ensued.

BRAND: Well, OK, did this just happen out of the blue or was there some underlying tension?

BURBANK: Well, there was this almost soap operatic back-story to this. In fact, I don't know. Do we - can we play a little mood music.

(Soundbite of "Nadia's Theme" theme song)

BURBANK: Oh, that's beautiful. George Karl, who's the coach of the Nuggets does not like Isiah Thomas, who's the coach of the Knicks, because Isiah Thomas - George Carl thinks - kind of insulted his friend Larry Brown, the former coach of the Knicks.

So George Karl goes into the Garden - Madison Square Garden - and when his team is up at the end of the game, leaves his best players in. And this makes Isiah Thomas furious. Who then reportedly tells his players to, you know, foul the Denver Nuggets really hard.

And so, you know, there's probably a long-lost brother or some kind of, you know, amnesia, but that hasn't been verified yet. But it's definitely - you've got all the twists and turns of "All My Children."

BRAND: Or "The Young and the Restless."

BURBANK: Oh, yeah, obviously.

BRAND: I know my soap operas. OK. So speaking of soap operas, there was no punishment for Isiah Thomas.

BURBANK: Yeah. And that was a kind of a surprise to some people, because he, you know, previously in the season got really mad at a guy named Bruce Bowen who plays for the San Antonia Spurs and told his players then to break Bruce Bowen's foot. So he has a history of inciting things. Well, there apparently wasn't enough proof to suspend him. So he's not being suspended, but just about everybody else involved is.

BRAND: OK. And so, meanwhile, there's this effort by the NBA to make the NBA more, what, respectable.

BURBANK: Yeah. And this is not a step in that direction for David Stern, the commissioner. He's kind of brought out all these little civility rules, like your shorts have to be a certain length. You can't, you know, chew gum during the National Anthem. He's done all this stuff to try to fix up the NBA's image after - remember that big brawl that happened like two years ago? They call it the Malice at the Palace.

BRAND: In Detroit.

BURBANK: Right, it was in Detroit. So he's been trying to sort of make amends for that for two years and just when it looks like he's doing it, you have this happen. So he is not a happy camper today.

BRAND: OK. NPR's Luke Burbank. Thank you.

BURBANK: Sure, Madeleine.

(Soundbite of "The Young and the Restless" theme song)

BRAND: Just like Nadia, NPR's DAY TO DAY will return in a moment.

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