As penalties loom, NBA poised to rule from experience
NEW YORK -- Stu Jackson was not a happy man when I reached him by cell phone Sunday morning, which means it'll be a Black Monday for Carmelo Anthony, Nate Robinson, J.R. Smith and a whole bunch of others.
"We're taking this very seriously," Jackson told ESPN.com, giving an early indication that he won't be handing out garden-variety punishments to the Knicks and the Nuggets for their Saturday night fight.
Penalties are expected to be announced Monday, and expect Jackson to come down hard, not because this was as bad of a fight as the one at the Palace of Auburn Hills just over two seasons ago, which it wasn't, but because it reminded everybody of the Palace brawl.
Three or four seasons ago this type of altercation would have been written off with a bunch of one- to four-game suspensions, but the game changed after Ron Artest went into the stands and Jermaine O'Neal slugged a fan who came onto the court. And with these types of events now being viewed through a post-Palace prism, with the NBA still reeling from such a major black eye, and with this fight having taken place right in David Stern's backyard, the smart money says the punishments are going to raise some eyebrows.
Here's an educated guess at how Jackson will rule:
Anthony will get hit the hardest for his sucker punch that decked Mardy Collins, a haymaker that could have become a secondary flash point that turned this into an even bigger brawl. Prediction: 8 games.
Robinson actually did provide the flash point that turned this from an altercation to a fight, running into the fray and grappling with J.R. Smith in a tussle that nearly spilled into the first row of seats. Prediction: 6 games.
Smith had every right to get up and confront Mardy Collins after the hard foul, but he had no right to throw a punch at Robinson just before the two were separated. Prediction: 3 games.
Jared Jeffries was held back at midcourt from going after Anthony, who backpedaled away after slugging Collins. But Jeffries was ready to take this fight to an even more chaotic level, and they'll get him for intent on this one. Prediction: 1 game.
Collins' foul was so egregiously flagrant, he stands a better than fair chance of being hit with more than the standard one-game suspension for a flagrant category 2 foul. He also committed a similar foul the previous night in Indiana in the waning moments of another lopsided loss. Prediction: 2 games.
Isiah Thomas is the trickiest call of the bunch, and a lot will depend on what he tells Jackson -- and what Anthony tells Jackson -- over the phone. Anthony says Thomas, who was angry that the Nuggets were still playing four starters despite being up 19 with less than two minutes left, told him a minute or so before the brawl that he should stay out of the paint -- pretty much a warning that a hard foul was coming. That would make Thomas culpable for helping incite the brawl, and instigators never get off lightly with Stu and his boss, David Stern. Prediction: 3 games.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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