Monday, November 22, 2004

Young men, you're in trouble

The NBA handed down some major suspensions in response to Friday night's brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers.

Ron Artest received the harshest penalty, getting suspended for the rest of the 2004-05 season - a total of 72 games, at a cost of $5 million in salary. Even though he arguably ignited the incident by charging into the stands, I have to think Artest's track record of dangerous behavior ultimately factored into this decision. This is a seriously troubled man who needs some time to fix himself. I've probably seen this brawl replayed 20 times on TV now, and besides the violence, what's most disturbing about Artest is the relatively calm look on his face as he's throwing punches and running around. There's no anger in his expression. Something just isn't clicking in his head.

Stephen Jackson, whom Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post argues should've received a larger suspension because he ran into the stands to fight fans without provocation, is out for 30 games and almost $2 million. And Jermaine O'Neal, probably Indiana's best player, will miss 25 games and $4.5 million worth of paychecks.

Any aspirations the Indiana Pacers had toward dethroning the Detroit Pistons as NBA Champions can now officially be kissed goodbye. And all because Ron Artest couldn't control himself when he needed to. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star is refreshingly objective about the whole matter.

Next, I'm sure the Oakland County prosecutor will be putting in his two cents, pressing charges against all those fans full of liquid courage on Friday night. I'm sure he'll go after the players too.

Did the Pistons get off lightly? Ben Wallace, who started the on-court portion of the fracas, was suspended for 6 games. Considering he wasn't in the stands punching fans, that seems appropriate (though I'm hardly objective, as a Pistons fan). An interesting question is whether the Pistons organization should be somehow penalized since its inadequate security and to-the-final-buzzer beer sales contributed to the situation. I'm not sure what can be done, though. Cutting beer sales earlier in the evening is a no-brainer. What about ticket sales? Can the NBA make the Pistons play in front of an empty arena for one or two games? Or take away one or two home games? I doubt that'll happen.

This ain't over yet...