INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson fired shots in the air in apparent self-defense after he was hit by a car outside a strip club early Friday -- the latest blow to a team struggling to rebuild its image.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Jackson and teammates Jamaal Tinsley, Marquis Daniels and Jimmie Hunter committed an "error in judgment" by staying out late during training camp. No one was seriously injured.
"Stephen is very lucky," Carlisle said. "It was a potential life-threatening situation that was averted. And right now, the biggest emotion I feel is relief that he's going to be OK."
Police said the disturbance began with an argument inside Club Rio involving patrons and players. The players said they left the club, but the patrons followed them. Then things turned physical.
Sgt. Matthew Mount, a police spokesman, said Jackson fired five shots from a 9mm pistol outside the Indianapolis club after he was hit in the mouth and struck by a car that sent him tumbling onto the hood. Officers were searching for the vehicle and three men wanted for questioning.
Carlisle said Jackson needed stitches in his lip and face but had no broken bones or other damage. His status for Wednesday's preseason opener against New Jersey was unclear.
"He's got some scrapes and bruises, but this guy is going to bounce back," Carlisle said.
Police said a small amount of marijuana was found in the passenger-side door of the car belonging to Tinsley. Carlisle declined to comment on that, saying he didn't have enough information. Mount said no arrests were made because police could not determine who had the marijuana. Three others were in the car with Tinsley, police said.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said the league was monitoring the situation. The NBA's drug policy says players who test positive for marijuana face rehabilitation, fines and suspensions, depending on whether it is a first offense. Testing is done randomly throughout the season and for reasonable cause.
Tinsley and Daniels also had guns in their cars, and all three armed players had weapons permits, Mount said.
Mount said police were reviewing a security tape and 911 calls from the club. The grainy image shows a car striking Jackson and at least one shot being fired into the air, police said.
The Pacers are still trying to shake the damage from the fight between Pacers and Detroit Pistons fans at Auburn Hills, Mich., two seasons ago.
Indiana was a title contender the last two seasons but those hopes were dashed by fallout from the brawl and suspensions and injuries. Fans often booed the team and crowds fell to their lowest level in nearly decade in last year's 41-41 season.
This year, the team has taken out ads and billboards featuring players and the slogan "It's up to us." The Pacers held parties for season-ticket holders in an effort to renew interest.
They also brought in 12 new players, including former Pacer Al Harrington. Even Jackson, who was suspended 30 games for his role in the brawl and often was at odds with Carlisle last season, talked about spending a summer "soul-searching" and returning with a positive attitude.
But instead of being asked about the positive moves, a new up-tempo offense and the exhibition opener Wednesday against New Jersey, team officials again were answering uncomfortable questions.
Jackson, a 28-year-old guard, joined the Pacers in 2004 and averaged 16 points during the 2005-06 season.
He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges related to the Auburn Hills mayhem and was sentenced in September 2005 to a year's probation and community service. He was named in a lawsuit filed by a Detroit fan in connection with the brawl.
During a recent news conference, Jackson hugged Carlisle and sat by his side to answer questions -- a gesture the Pacers hoped would symbolize improved team chemistry.
"As a franchise, we have to take responsibility for what goes on," Carlisle said. "Our players realize that being out that late during training camp is not the right thing. It's an error in judgment, and it's going to have to change."