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Mbenga suspended six games for entering stands

DALLAS -- Mavericks backup center DJ Mbenga was suspended
without pay for six games Thursday 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."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban -- who also went into the stands, but
wasn't punished for it -- said he pressed the league to consider the
Davis precedent.

"They weren't buying it," he said.

NBA vice president Stu Jackson said Mbenga actually got a
reduction from the 10-game suspension the league considers a
baseline for this offense.

"We ended up at six because DJ certainly went up there very
calmly and there was not an altercation of any kind," Jackson
said.

Jackson said Davis got a break because he believed his spouse
was in trouble.

"DJ went into the stands for someone that was albeit someone
he knew, it was not an immediate family member," Jackson said.

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.

Mbenga was on the bench in street clothes, having been made
inactive for Tuesday night's game, when he joined Cuban and other
team officials when they saw that Cassandra Johnson was involved in
a first-quarter confrontation with fans.

The league said in a statement that Cuban was off the hook
because "his actions did not violate NBA rules and were not
otherwise inappropriate."

Earlier this postseason, he was fined $100,000 for going on the
court to argue with officials. Five years ago, he was suspended for
two games and fined $10,000 for running on the court to break up a
fight that started because the Mavs were trying to score enough
points for fans to earn free chalupas from a fast food restaurant.

"This wasn't a chalupa moment," Cuban said. "It was something
totally different. ... I have a responsibility to everyone who puts
on a uniform and their families. Period, end of story."

Mbenga is 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.

"DJ thought that he could assist the coach's family,"
Johnson said. "I hope somebody would have grabbed him before he
went and took the two or three steps or whatever he did. So it's
very disappointing. But we're all one big family. We're in it
together."

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. If any games are left after the playoffs,
it'll pick up again at the start of next season.

His absence against the Suns likely won't hurt the Mavericks
much since he'd been inactive all series. Plus, the length of the
suspension enables the team to put him on the suspended list, which
means someone else doesn't have to be made inactive.

Where this hurts Dallas is if the club 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 could be used
against.

"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.