Another Black Eye for the NBA: Fight Night at Madison Square GardenWhat seemed like just another blowout loss in a season of blowout losses for the New York Knicks became ugly in a more sinister--and dangerous--way on Saturday night. Denver led New York 119-100 with 1:31 left in the game when the Knicks' Mardy Collins flagrantly fouled J.R. Smith--grabbing him around the neck from behind--to prevent a fast break layup (Collins also had a flagrant foul near the end of New York's blowout loss to Indiana on Friday). Smith tumbled to the ground (Collins made no effort to catch him) and immediately jumped up to confront Collins. Players from both teams quickly gathered in the area and Nate Robinson appeared to take a swing at Smith, who tackled Robinson, sending both players tumbling into the fans' seats on the baseline. Just when it seemed that order had been restored, Carmelo Anthony punched Collins in the face, Jared Jeffries ran after Anthony and more chaos ensued as coaches, officials and security personnel tried to break up fighting between multiple players.
The officials ejected all 10 players who were in the game at the time the fight began--Nate Robinson, Mardy Collins, Jared Jeffries, David Lee and Channing Frye of the Knicks and Andre Miller, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera of the Nuggets. ESPN's Kiki Vandeweghe, a former All-Star, later commented that he had never seen that happen before. You may also notice that the Nuggets still had several starters in the game at the time this transpired, while the Knicks had emptied their bench. That fact certainly did not escape the attention of Knicks' Coach Isiah Thomas, who recounted after the game what he told Anthony in the wake of the altercation: "I just said to him, 'You know, you're up 20, you're up 19 with a minute and half to go, you and (Marcus) Camby really shouldn't be in the game right now. We had surrendered, those guys shouldn't even be in the game at that point in time."
This kind of melee is exactly the kind of conduct that Commissioner David Stern is trying to eliminate from the game, so expect him to swiftly issue lengthy suspensions to the players he deems to be most responsible for this fiasco. Anthony, Collins, Smith and Robinson will all likely be missing substantial playing time. Stern was 100% correct in the way that he responded to the Pistons-Pacers brawl (November 19, 2004) and he indicated at that time that if something like that ever happened again the punishments would be severe. The NBA simply cannot tolerate fighting among players, particularly when it spills into the stands and endangers fans. Of course, the video of this will be replayed endlessly, so this is a public relations disaster as well, but that aspect pales in importance compared to the safety issues.
ESPN was on top of the story, prominently covering it on SportsCenter and NBA Fastbreak, but NBA TV all but ignored what happened. Dei Lynam mentioned it once in passing but highlights of the game were not shown until much later. Even then, the commentators ignored the fight and talked about the game's implication in the standings. I understand that the league runs NBA TV and wants to put a positive spin on things but, hello, 10 players were ejected and the fight spilled into the stands--you cannot just brush over this like it didn't happen.
posted by David Friedman @ 11:50 PM