Mbenga suspended six games for going into stands

DALLAS -- Mavericks backup center DJ Mbenga was suspended without pay for six games Wednesday for going into the stands to aid the wife of coach Avery Johnson during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals in Phoenix.

The punishment is one game longer than New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis received in January for going from the court into the stands to defend his wife.

"It's very difficult to swallow," said Dallas president of basketball operation Donnie Nelson. "My understanding is he went up there with the intention of telling AJ's wife to go back into the locker room."

Mbenga on the bench in street clothes, having been made inactive for Tuesday night's game, when he joined team owner Mark Cuban and other team officials in going to the aid of Cassandra Johnson when she was involved in a first-quarter confrontation with fans.

The league said in a statement that it would not punish Cuban for his involvement "as his actions did not violate NBA rules and were not otherwise inappropriate."

League vice president Stu Jackson, who hands out punishments, was not immediately available for comment.

The NBA has talked about being strict with players who go into the stands, especially after the brawl during a Pistons-Pacers game in Detroit in 2004.

Davis and Mbenga are the only players involved in such cases since then.

Mbenga also becomes the second Dallas player suspended during these playoffs. Guard Jason Terry was forced to miss Game 6 of the second round against San Antonio for punching Michael Finley.

Mbenga's punishment began with Game 5 on Thursday night. With the series tied 2-2, he'll use up at least one more game of the suspension this round.

His absence against the Suns likely won't hurt the Mavericks much since he'd been inactive all series. However, his presence would be useful if Dallas advances to play either Miami or Detroit in the NBA Finals because both teams have multiple big frontcourt players.

The 7-foot, 245-pound Mbenga played 16 minutes over five games the first two rounds.

"We all know DJ is not a starting-five kind of guy," Nelson said. "But is there a place for him? Absolutely. We just have to deal with it."

According to all involved, Cassandra Johnson was upset that a man and woman kept standing and cheering, blocking the view of her children. Johnson was accused of hitting the woman twice during a verbal confrontation; Johnson told police she did not make any physical contact.

Phoenix police said the matter would be turned over to the city prosecutor to determine if any misdemeanor charge should be filed.