Mavs' Terry suspended one game without pay

Updated: May 19, 2006, 12:21 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- The Mavericks-Spurs series took another wild turn Thursday, with Dallas guard Jason Terry getting suspended from Game 6 for punching former teammate Michael Finley while chasing a loose ball in the closing seconds of Game 5.

Cuban on Terry suspension
Mark Cuban, the Mavericks' owner, made the following comments in response to Terry's suspension in an e-mail sent to ESPN on Thursday.

"It's not right, and I told the league so.

"It's certainly not consistent with what the league has done in the past.

"Jason responds to a guy hipchecking him in the head while he is on his back and can't protect himself and he gets suspended. You can't throw a punch while you are on your back and someone is laying on you.

"If Jason had tried to get him off with an open hand, or an elbow, we wouldnt be talking about this at all. Look at [Manu] Ginobli in the replays, he is staring at everything that happens and doesn't respond at all, but all the while you can see the grimace on Jason's face.

"The league also said they didn't know if the [Michael] Finley piledriver with his hip to Jason's head while Ginobli was lying on him was intentional or not. So they couldn't do anything about it.

"Unbelievable. When it's all [said] and done, this series could end up being talked about for all the wrong reasons."

Terry and Finley jostled with 3.4 seconds left in San Antonio's 98-97 victory on Wednesday night. Terry wound up on his back, grasping the ball, with Spurs forward Manu Ginobili forcing a jump ball by getting a hand on it, too.

While officials were sorting things out, Finley was visibly angry and had to be restrained by teammates. He appeared to be making a fist and telling his teammates that someone had punched him.

Nothing was called at the time and neither team mentioned the incident during postgame interviews, but NBA vice president Stu Jackson said "clearly, something happened," so it was reviewed early Thursday.

Jackson said broadcast footage doesn't show the punch, but it was obvious when viewed from other angles. He also interviewed both players before handing down his ruling.

"There was no option here," Jackson said. "The rule is very clear cut. If you throw a punch, whether it connects or not, that will get you an automatic one-game suspension."

Terry left practice without speaking to reporters before the punishment was announced. He later missed his local radio show, but called in and said: "I just want to apologize to the team and the organization and the fans. This is definitely a sad situation. But, hey, life goes on. We've got to deal with it."

Nelson: 'How would you react?'
Donnie Nelson, Mavericks GM/President of Basketball Operations, vented his disappointment about Jason Terry being suspended for Game 6 on Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio. Listen Insider

The Mavericks lead the series 3-2. They have another chance to advance to the conference finals in Game 6 at home Friday night.

If the Spurs win, Game 7 would be Monday night in San Antonio.

Terry already had been sharing point-guard duties with Devin Harris since Game 2. Dallas' most likely move is adding Jerry Stackhouse to the lineup.

Terry is averaging 17.9 points in the playoffs, second on the club behind Dirk Nowitzki. He scored 32 points in Game 4 and had 15 in Game 5, missing a potential winning shot in the final seconds.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban called the suspension "unbelievable."

Point Guard
Dallas Mavericks

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
80 17.1 2.0 3.8 .470 .800

"Michael Finley does a piledriver with his hip to Jason's head while he is on the ground," Cuban wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Jason is on his back with Ginobili laying on top of him. No question he tried to get Finley off of him and he should be fined for that. But to suspend him is questionable."

Interviewed on Terry's radio show, Cuban said he "didn't understand it and not quite so politely, I told the league so." He added that after watching replays from five angles, he considered it more of a reaction than a punch.

"If that's a punch, Jason certainly didn't get his money's worth," Cuban said. "If his hand would've been open to get Fin off him, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But the fact that his fist was closed when he reacted to him, they call it a punch."

Asked about the contact preceding the punch, Jackson said: "Certainly all players have the right to a loose ball. We recognize when players attempt to get a loose ball, there is going to be some contact."

Spurs players weren't available for comment Thursday.

San Antonio's victory in Game 5 kept alive its title defense and extended a series that already is being called a classic.

The series already was highly anticipated because of a flaw in league rules that forced these teams to meet in the second round despite the fact they had the two best records in the Western Conference. It's only the third time two 60-win teams have met this early in the postseason and the first time it didn't happen without another 60-win team in the conference.

NBA commissioner David Stern already has announced a plan to fix the seeding system before next season.

The games have lived up to the hype, with four of them decided at the end and the home team winning each time. The difference in the series is that Dallas easily won Game 2 in San Antonio when Harris surprisingly joined Terry in a backcourt featuring two point guards.

Plus, the tight finishes have been matched by drama off the court: Cuban getting fined $200,000 for badmouthing of officials, the battle of wits between Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and his protege-turned-foe Johnson, and the saga of Finley facing the team that cut him this summer but is paying the majority of his $14.6 million salary.

His San Antonio teammates and coaches have been outraged that he's been getting booed in Dallas, even though he said he expected it because he's on the other side now. Nowitzki jokingly encouraged fans to jeer his good friend for the same reason.

Finley spent the previous nine seasons with the Mavericks, making the All-Star team twice. He was no longer producing at the level of his salary and Dallas used the league's one-time amnesty clause to waive him last summer. He remains the fourth-leading scorer in franchise history.

Finley and Stackhouse tangled at the end of Game 2, with Stackhouse getting a technical foul.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press