WNBA reviewing Sparks-Shock skirmish in entirety

Updated: July 23, 2008, 9:21 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The WNBA on Wednesday said it is reviewing the skirmish involving the Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock on Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

"The WNBA is reviewing the incident in its entirety," WNBA spokesman Ron Howard said Wednesday.

The league's decisions are expected Thursday before Detroit plays at Houston and Los Angeles travels to face Connecticut.

Candace Parker was one of three players ejected, along with Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn, after the scuffle with 4.6 seconds left in the Los Angeles Sparks' 84-81 victory over the Shock.

The melee started moments after Parker and Detroit's Cheryl Ford had to be separated after Ford fouled Parker.

On the next possession, Parker got tangled up with Detroit's Plenette Pierson and fell to the ground. As Parker was getting up, Pierson hovered over the Sparks' rookie, who pulled her to the ground.

Parker then was tackled by the Shock's Deanna Nolan. Players and coaches from both teams joined in, and Mahorn -- who said he simply was trying to separate players -- pushed the Sparks' Lisa Leslie at one point and knocked her to the court. Los Angeles' DeLisha Milton-Jones then pushed and punched Mahorn in the back.

"I don't even know why was he pushing me down," Leslie said. "I wasn't swinging or hitting anybody. I was just going to go help my teammate up."

When order was restored, Parker, Pierson, Milton-Jones and Mahorn were ejected, and Nolan and Los Angeles' Shannon Bobbitt received technicals.

"To be honest, I don't recall exactly what happened," Parker said. "I'll have to watch the tape."

In addition to the four who were ejected, WNBA rules stipulate that players who left the bench are subject to a minimum one-game suspension and a fine -- much like NBA players.

Not only was this the site of the ugly Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004 that involved fans, Mahorn also was involved in that melee. He was then a Detroit broadcaster and went into the crowd to try to pull Indiana's Ron Artest away from fans.

"I was trying to protect the whole game, the integrity of the game," Mahorn said of Tuesday's ejection. "The WNBA is very special to me … I would never push a woman. This game, I love this game too much."

Shock coach Bill Laimbeer -- who teamed with Mahorn to form the core of the Pistons' "Bad Boys" clubs that won championships in 1989 and 1990 -- and Los Angeles' Michael Cooper both came to Mahorn's defense.

"Rick Mahorn is known as a peacemaker, from even the brawl we had here with Indiana," Laimbeer said. "He went out there to get people off the pile, and to get people to stop the confrontation. That's who he is, that's what he does."

Added Cooper: "I think Rick was trying to play peacemaker, but he's just too big. I was only trying to grab my players, and I didn't see exactly what happened, but he apparently gently tried to push Lisa away."

The Shock said Wednesday Ford will miss the remainder of the regular season and playoffs due to a right knee ACL tear. The injury was diagnosed following an MRI. She suffered the tear while coming down from grabbing a rebound with 2:06 left to play in the fourth quarter but went back into the game.

Ford tried to restrain Pierson during the altercation and left the floor in a wheelchair.

"That was unfortunate, but things like that happen in basketball sometimes," Milton-Jones said. "The league is going to have to decide what kind of action to take."

Brawls occur in the NBA -- the New York Knicks and Miami Heat were involved in one during the 1997 playoffs.

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he jumped up when he saw the highlights on TV in Las Vegas, where he is practicing with the U.S. Olympic team.

"Candace is going to be a target. She's an incredible player," Bryant said. "I think it's good for her that she didn't back down and I think it's good for her teammates to step in there."

Bryant added that one fight in the league's existence "is a hell of a track record."

"I haven't seen something like that, I don't think, in my whole career. This is pretty rare," said Detroit veteran guard Katie Smith, who will be teammates with Leslie, Parker and Milton-Jones at the Beijing Olympics.

"A lot of people are paying attention to the WNBA right now that have probably never followed it," Smith said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "Is it the right kind of attention? No. But I don't think the publicity hurts. In hockey, people live for the fights.

"Who knows, maybe we'll meet in the WNBA Finals and there will be even more interest."

Although the league, now in its 12th season, is still looking to broaden its fan base, this is hardly what anyone had in mind.

"This is not the way we want to represent ourselves and the WNBA," Leslie said, "and for it to be a television game, obviously, it'll probably make some highlights. And this is not the way we want to get attention."

A message from the AP seeking comment was left on Mahorn's cell phone and for Cooper and Leslie via Sparks spokesperson Alayne Ingram.

"Rick Mahorn is getting the bad end of the deal," Smith said. "I'd bet all the money in the world on him that he didn't push her. Unfortunately, the people in charge of the game shouldn't have let it get [to] that point. Thankfully, nothing too crazy happened."

Now, the league is left to decide which of the participants will be punished.

WNBA president Donna Orender's dilemma will be to decide who will be suspended and for how long. In 2005, the Shock's Elaine Powell was suspended five games for striking Washington's Coco Miller during a game. Although Powell has never had the stature of Parker or even Milton-Jones, the league hasn't been shy about suspending a star player. Phoenix's Diana Taurasi served a two-game ban last season for inappropriate conduct toward game officials after a loss to Detroit.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.