Saturday was Brawl Day in Indy. Almost every local newscast was devoted entirely to recapping and replaying Friday night’s brawl between the Pacers and Pistons. A day later, I still don’t know what to say about the event as a whole. So I’ll just move on and offer these suggestions/predictions to the NBA before they hand out suspensions tonight or tomorrow.
Ben Wallace: 5-10 games. Every summer you hear about people who innocently throw a cigarette into some dead brush, forget to properly put out their camp fire, or are just screwing around with open flame and end up starting massive, destructive forest fires. Their intent may not have been to burn thousands of acres, if not subdivisions and places of commerce, but they’re responsible nonetheless. Ben Wallace’s reaction to Ron Artest’s hard, but totally legal, foul at the end of the game was wildly inappropriate and excessive. If he doesn’t decide to shove Artest in the throat, the brawl in the stands never happens. I know he didn’t mean or expect to cause what eventually happened, but he lit the first match and holds a high level of blame.
Jermaine O’Neal: 10 games. As Ben Wallace’s actions were totally out of character, so were JO’s. He’s always seemed like a very good guy who avoided trouble on and off the court. By going into the stands, though, he’s earned at least a Vernon Maxwell level suspension. JO is quite lucky he didn’t a major injury, or even kill, the guy he hit on the court. I imagine Jermaine will be securing the services of a lawyer soon.
Stephen Jackson: 15 games. Not only did he go into the stands, but as the initial ruckus on the court was winding down, it was largely his actions that extended the verbal tussle and opened the door to further mayhem.
Ron Artest: 25 games. In principle, I agree with the ESPN crew on Friday night that said if you’re attacked, you have the right to defend yourself. When Artest was hit in the face by a bottle thrown from the stands, as a man he had every right to search out whoever threw it and take a swing. As an NBA player, however, he had an obligation to turn the other cheek and get his ass to the locker room. The fact he was provoked by a viscous and obvious attack from the crowd should be a mitigating fact to David Stern, but not an absolving fact. We don’t know if the guy Artest went after was indeed the person who threw the bottle. We don’t know if the second guy on the court Artest took a swing at had done something to Ron, or if he was just standing there minding his own business. Even if you explain away 2/3 of his activities, there’s still plenty of disturbing images for David Stern to consider. Ron’s past doesn’t help him. It can be argued that by suspending him for the remainder of the year, he can be saved from himself, saved from this happening again, etc. If the bottle hadn’t hit him before he went in the crowd, I don’t think there would be any question he wouldn’t play in the NBA again until November 2005. I wouldn’t be surprised if the suspension is longer than 25 games, but that’s my gut feeling. It’s a shame the Pacers didn’t trade him when they had a chance. I think he’s sunk their season and they’ll be lucky to get a draft pick for him next summer.