Not Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer, who got the
harshest punishment, a 15-game suspension. And not the teams
themselves, who were fined an unprecedented half-million dollars
"We have set up the goal of eliminating fighting from our
game. We haven't eliminated it completely," Commissioner David
Stern said in meting out the penalties.
NBA players' union director Billy Hunter said he would talk to
Anthony and his agent Tuesday before deciding whether to pursue arbitration to reduce the suspension. In comments with multiple media outlets, Hunter said 15 games for Anthony was "a bit heavy" compared with previous discipline for similar incidents.
"The message could have gotten through with lesser games," Hunter told Newsday on Monday night before the Knicks played the Jazz in New York. "There's no justification for the 15 games other than the fact that the commissioner clearly wants to send a message."
Anthony's agent, Calvin Andrews, told news media in Denver there was "no precedent" for the length of Anthony's suspension to be as long.
"[Anthony] obviously was not very happy. He wasn't expecting this many games," Andrews said, adding that a possible appeal will be discussed on Tuesday.
Per the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, Anthony can attempt to get his suspension lessened through arbitration because it is longer than 12 games. So far, Anthony hasn't announced whether he will try to do this. Regardless, his suspension began immediately, starting with Monday night's home victory over the Wizards.
There is precedent for reducing suspensions. After the Pacers-Pistons brawl, an arbitrator lessened Jermaine O'Neal's suspension from 25 to 15 games.
In all, seven players were suspended for a fight that spilled
into the stands at Madison Square Garden with just over a minute
left in Saturday night's game. The penalties were without pay,
costing Anthony about $641,000 in salary.
It was the NBA's scariest scene since the brawl between Indiana
Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans two years ago. The league
is still recovering from that episode, and Stern made it clear the
players needed to control themselves -- or else.
"I was very disappointed," he said. "Clearly, we're not
getting through or players in certain circumstances just don't want
to be restrained. I would suggest that those players will not have
long careers in the NBA."
Also penalized: Denver's J.R. Smith for 10 games;
New York's Nate Robinson for 10 games; Mardy Collins, six; teammate Jared Jeffries, four. The
Knicks' Jerome James and the Nuggets' Nene each were penalized one
game for leaving the bench area during the chaos.
Though there was no separate penalty for Knicks coach Isiah
Thomas, who warned Anthony not to go into the lane before the
mayhem started, Nuggets coach George Karl singled him out for the
sharpest criticism, calling his actions "despicable."
"There's no question in my mind it was premeditated," Karl
said. "He made a bad situation worse. He's a jerk for what he's
trying to do."
If there's any upside to the story, it's that the Knicks and
Nuggets won't play again this season.
"The incident was deeply regrettable, unacceptable on every
level and I hope and expect to never witness anything like it
again. We are all very sorry it happened," Garden chairman James
The fight started just as Denver's 123-100 victory was wrapping
up, and 10 players were ejected.
Stern was especially troubled by the fight between Robinson and
Smith that landed in the seats.
"My concern is actually for the safety of the players and the
fans, and when things get out of hand you cannot predict or project
where they're going to go," Stern said. "There were certain
players who weren't going to allow themselves to be calmed."
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.
But Stern was clearly annoyed by remarks from Thomas and the
Knicks that the Nuggets were somehow responsible because they kept
four starters on the floor late in the blowout.
The brawl began when Collins prevented Smith from an easy basket
by grabbing him around the neck and taking him to the floor.
Smith got up and immediately started jawing with Collins, and
Robinson jumped in to pull Smith away. Anthony shoved Robinson, and
Robinson and Smith then tumbled into the front row while fighting.
Just as things appeared to be calming down, Anthony threw a hard
punch that floored Collins. Jeffries sprinted from the baseline
toward halfcourt in an effort to get at Anthony, but was tackled by
a Denver player.
By the time security finally contained Smith, the players were
nearly at the opposite end of the court from where things started.
Earlier Monday, while the Knicks held their morning shootaround,
Thomas didn't back away from assertions that Karl left his starters
in the game too long.
"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
In Denver, Karl was blunt with his criticism of Thomas.
"I think his actions after the game were despicable. He made a
bad situation worse. I'll swear on my children's life that I never
thought about running up the score. I wanted to get a big win on
"My team has had trouble holding leads at the end of games,"
he added. "I didn't want the score to get under 10 points because
if it would've gotten under 10 points it would've had a negative
feeling on my team."
The Nuggets saw a 25-point, first-half lead dwindle to just two
points in the fourth quarter Monday night, but held on to beat the
Washington Wizards 117-108 without its suspended players.
Thomas declined comment on Karl's remarks. His undermanned
Knicks upset the Utah Jazz in overtime Monday night 97-96 on a
layup by Stephon Marbury just before the buzzer.
"We are in concurrence with whatever the league has offered us,
and whatever the commissioner said we support and will abide by,"
Karl has bigger problems now. He'll be without Anthony until the
Nuggets' game at Houston on Jan. 20, and Smith will be gone until
Jan. 8. That duo combines for more than 48 points a game.
"It's going to be tough," said Nuggets center Marcus Camby,
one of the five players ejected who wasn't suspended. "It's
already tough being in the Western Conference, and missing guys
like J.R. and Carmelo is going to make it even worse."
Anthony's conduct represents a big blow to the All-Star player,
team and league. He starred as a captain on the U.S. team at the
world championships this summer, and had been getting more
marketing opportunities as one of the league's brightest young
Stern took none of that into account when issuing his decision.
"We judged him on his actions on the court, period," Stern
said. "And they deserved a harsh penalty."
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.