Whenever an NBA suspension comes down nowadays, I imagine David Stern physically slapping the affected player on the wrist. “Not in my league”, says the commish who only exists inside my head.
There certainly is no room in the Association for what took place during the Warriors’ 108-97 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. Feeling as though overly-physical play was going unchecked by the officials, David Lee let his frustration get the best of him and fouled Indiana center Roy Hibbert hard enough that Hibbert politely turned around and asked him why he had done it.
Wait, no, that only happened in my head, too. In reality, Hibbert shoved Lee right back, igniting a scuffle that spilled off the playing floor and into (gasp!) the court side seats. Every player in the game at the time of the incident ended up in a giant cloud of blue, yellow and white-clad bodies pushing and pulling until enough pleasantries were exchanged to satisfy the aggressors.
When the dust settled, Stephen Curry–who appeared to try to hug the very large Hibbert into submission–had been thrown to the floor twice and was fortunate to still have his ankle (and perhaps his head) intact. Hibbert was tossed, the only player to get the heave-ho, but by no means less angry. And Lee was assessed a technical, which was a fairly lenient sentence for the guy who started the fracas.
Well, it turns out Stern felt the same way. Lee and Hibbert have both received wrist-slap one-game suspensions, with Lee serving his on Wednesday while the Warriors play a road game against the New York Knicks, a contest that already presented a challenge for Golden State before they lost the man who leads the league with 37 double-doubles.
Lee’s actions were innocuous enough–the shove wasn’t much more than you’d give your big brother after he’d put you in a headlock one too many times–but Golden State should still count their blessings that he will only miss one game, albeit one that just became much tougher to win. That goes for Hibbert, as well. The Pacers know better than any other organization in the NBA that any time a fight spills far enough off the court that fans start to move out of the way, it’s not good.
You remember that night, don’t you? It’s hard to believe that the infamous “Malice in the Palace” incident is now over eight years old, but do not for a second think it has snuck out of the back of David Stern’s mind. That’s the brawl by which all others, even if they’re more posturing than actual fighting, will forever be judged, and the commissioner is right to take any slightly similar altercation very seriously. That’s certainly the case when fans who paid four figures for their seats suddenly have a seven-foot three moving tree trunk throwing point guards into their laps. Pistons forward Ben Wallace, who began the Pacers-Pistons debacle by shoving the artist formerly known as Ron Artest with a push only a couple measures harder than Lee’s, lost six games. Lee easily could have been hit with a two or three-game ban.
But he wasn’t, and that’s all that matters for Golden State. They’ll miss their lone All-Star rep on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, but they can sleep easy knowing that Tuesday’s stench won’t linger longer than 24 hours. As is usually the case, a wrist slap ain’t so bad.