Injury keeps Davis from returning from suspension

ATLANTA -- Antonio Davis served a five-game suspension for rushing into the stands in defense of his wife, but his return to the court for the New York Knicks will have to wait.

Davis, who was set to start Monday night against the Atlanta Hawks, was a last-minute scratch because of lower back pain. Maurice Taylor started in his place.

Before the game, Davis gave no indication that his back was hurting. New York was blown out by the Hawks 120-101 for its eighth loss in nine games.

"You worry about your timing and you worry about your wind and stuff like that. I've been shooting the ball and running a little bit," Davis said. "It's just going out here now and forgetting that I've been out and try to get back in and make sure I know what's going on out there on the floor and that we're just not lost as a team. So that's my only thing."

Davis was not available after the game. Coach Larry Brown didn't know when the 37-year-old player hurt his back or if he'll be available Tuesday night when the Knicks host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"You'll have to ask him that," Brown said. "He's an older guy. You know, old people have back problems."

Prior to tipoff, Davis discussed the incident that led to his suspension.

"Some may say I overreacted, some may say that my wife should have called security -- any of that," he said in the locker room. "Bottom line is, it all happened. Hopefully something like that won't happen again.

"But I don't think that I would have done anything differently. As of right now, I'm just glad that it's over and I can get back to playing basketball."

Davis' wife, Kendra, exchanged words with a Bulls' fan during a Jan. 18 game in Chicago. After another fan became involved, Davis jumped over the scorer's table and ran into the stands during a timeout in overtime. He was ejected by the officials and suspended by the league the next day.

"It's a tough situation, you know?" Davis said. "On the one hand, as president of the [players'] union, I understand the rules better than anybody and why that rule is in place. But on the other hand -- which I think is the part of me that took over -- as a man, you have to protect your family."

No matter the circumstances, the NBA made it clear there will be no leniency for players going into the stands, especially after last season's brawl at Detroit during a Pistons-Pacers game. That melee resulted in lengthy suspensions and criminal charges for Indiana's Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal.

Even so, a number of players have sympathized with Davis' plight.

"It's been actually phenomenal, the support that I've been getting, even though I broke a rule," he said.

Davis issued a statement after the game saying the fan he thought was threatening his wife, 22-year-old Michael Axelrod, was drunk. Axelrod threatened a lawsuit, saying all he had was a glass of wine at dinner.

A week ago, the two sides issued a joint statement saying the whole episode stemmed from "some simple misunderstandings" and it was time to move on. Axelrod said no lawsuit would be filed.

The Knicks went 1-4 during Davis' suspension and dropped to 14-29 -- last in the Atlantic Division -- with their eighth loss in nine games.

During his suspension, Davis noticed some of the problems plaguing the Knicks -- especially on defense. They were allowing 100.9 points per game, the fifth-worst figure in the league.

"There were a few times late in a couple of those games, and even earlier, I felt like we just didn't rebound or help each other as good as we had," he said. "Talking defensively, that's something we struggle with. That's something I'm just trying to make sure we do each and every night out."