David Stern was measured, but at times his anger was apparent. He was sleep-deprived, annoyed and incensed. It all added up to the most significant penalties since the infamous Malice at the Palace two years ago. Here’s the bottom-line:
Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer, was suspended 15 games for his actions in what some are calling the Grapple in the Apple Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Anthony punched Knicks rookie Mardy Collins, who had horse-collared Nuggets guard J.R. Smith to ignite the worst melee in Garden history. The fight occurred in the final minutes of the Nuggets 123-100 rout.
Anthony will be eligible to return to action January 20 when the Nuggets face the Houston Rockets on the road.
Knicks guard Nate Robinson, whose actions escalated the fracas at a juncture when things seemed to be settling, was suspended for 10 games, as was Smith.
Collins was suspended for 6 games.
Knicks forward Jared Jeffries, who went after Anthony following the punch, was suspended for 4 games.
Two players – Jarome James of the Knicks and Nuggets forward Nene – were suspended one game each for leaving their respective benches.
“We have a goal of eliminating fighting from our game,” Stern said. “But we obviously haven’t eliminated it completely….Clearly we’re not getting through. Our players in some circumstances do not want to be restrained. I suggest those players will not have long careers in the NBA. We’ve made our intentions clear here.”
In an unprecedented move, Knicks and Nuggets were each fined$500,000
“Teams must be held accountable,” Stern said during a conference call Monday afternoon. “We have an obligation to take steps to avoid making these mistakes in the future.”
Neither Isiah Thomas nor George Karl were punished, despite reports that Thomas may have warned Anthony to stay out fo the lane, inferring that a hard foul was abut to ensue. “My finding was that there as not adequate evidence to warrant a determination [on the coaches].” said Stern.
Karl called Thomas a “jerk” and an “asshole” in a scrum with reporters just after the fines were announced. He denied running up the score and essentially defended his team as “learning how to win on the road” as justification for having four starters on the floor in the waning minutes. “He has the same team on the floor that had whittled a 25-point lead down to 10,” Karl said. Stern was clearly not enthralled with the comments, saying he’d allow the Nuggets ownership to deal with Karl. “If it goes beyond the heat of the moment, I’ll deal with it myself,” he warned.
“My main concern is stopping the escalation,” Stern also said. “It’s important to know that if you have to pull way to take a shot at another player you will be harshly dealt when…If we don’t do that we allow people to get the wrong impression [about the game.]”