Bet on Stern to send message with Davis suspension
The morning line on the over/under for Antonio Davis' suspension is eight games.
Anything less, and commissioner David Stern will be pilloried for not being tough enough on the latest player to jump the scorer's table and cross the invisible line separating paying customers and paid performers.
Anything more, and Stern will be accused of grossly overreacting to a post-Artest moment that never really spun out of control.
Eight is enough.
Because he went into the same section of seats as Ron Artest did during the infamous Palace brawl in 2004, there was an eerie similarity to the first few seconds of Davis' sprint out of the Knicks' huddle, over the table and into the courtside seats during overtime of Wednesday night's Knicks-Bulls game at the United Center in Chicago.
"I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated," Davis said in a statement issued after the game. "I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no time to call security. It happened too quickly."
Davis remained calm and walked away after security arrived, and the referees ejected him after he returned to the bench.
Now, it's Stern's turn to eject him for a few more games, and the question the commissioner must ponder Thursday is what the appropriate punishment should be (Davis' suspension is expected to be announced sometime during the afternoon before the Knicks' Thursday night home game against Detroit).
In the aftermath of the Palace brawl, Stern issued some of the harshest penalties he had ever handed down because he wanted to send the strongest possible message that players can never, ever, ever cross the line and go into the stands. No matter how benign Davis' foray ended up being, it was totally unacceptable. What would have happened if someone had tossed a beer on Davis? Or his wife?
Stern was actually lucky that someone as educated and affable as Davis was the first to cross the post-Artest line, but that should not be a mitigating factor when the commissioner sets Davis' penalty, nor should Davis' post as president of the players' union factor into the equation.
An eight-game suspension would cost Davis, who makes $13.8 million, a little over a million bucks in lost salary. It could go down in history as Davis' Million-Dollar Mistake, and if he makes a sincere public statement of contrition it'll allow everyone to put this episode behind them.
The last thing the commissioner needs is another extended debate tied in some way to the Palace brawl. He needs this one to go away, and the best way for that to happen is for Stern to issue a suspension that's fair.
In this case, eight is enough.
Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.