Haddadi remarks cost Clippers duo

LOS ANGELES -- Clippers longtime play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler and color analyst Michael Smith were suspended one game by the Fox Sports Prime Ticket cable network for their comments about Memphis center Hamed Haddadi.

Lawler and Smith made their off-the-cuff comments about the Iranian-born center during Wednesday night's telecast from Memphis. The on-air banter offended a viewer who e-mailed Fox to complain.

The duo did not work Friday's night telecast against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. Michael Eaves and Don MacLean, who regularly serve as halftime and postgame analysts on the Clippers telecasts, substituted for Lawler and Smith at courtside.

"That's unfortunate. It was pretty strange not seeing them there," Clippers point guard Baron Davis said after the 106-99 victory. "Ralph and Mike are very classy guys, and they didn't do it to hurt anyone.

"A lot of times when you're commenting on games, it's a source of entertainment. And a lot of times, people may take offense. But the viewers need to understand that it's entertainment, and people are entitled to their opinion. I stand by Ralph and Mike because they're great guys and they only want to support and help everybody in the league."

Lawler, 71, is in his 31st season doing Clippers games, and Smith is in his 12th. Lawler has surpassed 2,400 regular season and playoff Clippers broadcasts in his career, according to the team's Web site.

"We regret the remarks made by Clippers announcers Michael Smith and Ralph Lawler during Wednesday's telecast," Fox said in a statement about 2½ hours before the game. "While we believe that Michael and Ralph did not intend their exchange to be offensive, the comments were inappropriate.

"We extend our apologies to Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies and to anyone who was offended. We have addressed the situation with Michael and Ralph and have taken appropriate action."

The Clippers did not comment.

The transcript of the conversation between Lawler and Smith, which occurred late in the game, was printed on the Los Angeles Times' Web site:

Smith: "Look who's in."

Lawler: "Hamed Haddadi. Where's he from?"

Smith: "He's the first Iranian to play in the NBA." (Smith pronounced Iranian as "Eye-ranian," a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)

Lawler: "There aren't any Iranian players in the NBA," repeating Smith's mispronunciation.

Smith: "He's the only one."

Lawler: "He's from Iran?"

Smith: "I guess so."

Lawler: "That Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "The real Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "Wow. Haddadi that's H-A-D-D-A-D-I."

Smith: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?"

Smith: "If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."

Lawler: "Here's Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball."

Smith: "Especially the post players.

Lawler: "I don't know about their guards."