By John Clayton
Indianapolis, April 18, 2004
(Updated April 19 at 12:06 p.m.)
Pacers forward Ron Artest has been suspended one game for leaving the immediate vicinity of the
bench during an altercation, it was announced today by Stu Jackson, NBA Senior Vice President, Basketball Operations. Artest will miss Game 2 of the first-round series with Boston on Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The incident came after Brandon Hunter took down Jermaine O'Neal as the two battled for rebound position on Fred Jones' 3-pointer with 8:01 remaining in the second quarter. O'Neal then exchanged words with Hunter and Davis as a throng of players moved toward center court. Artest, who reportedly will be named Defensive Player of the Year Monday, took a couple of steps onto the court, turned around and returned to the bench. He said a representative from the office of NBA Competition and Rules Committee Chairman Stu Jackson took a statement Sunday morning.
Though the Pacers players and coaches weren't immediately available for comment Monday, they defended his actions on Sunday.
"If you look at what happened, his intentions were purely benevolent," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "(Artest) stuck his left arm out to stop another guy from going out on the floor, then he saw that Jermaine was in the process of being intentionally provoked into an ejection. His instinct, I think, was to go pull (O'Neal) out so he didn't get ejected and then three steps out, he realized he wasn't supposed to be out there and he got back. If it's judged on intent, he won't be suspended. If it's judged techncially, he will. Frankly, neither decision would suprise me. I think it's possible that it could go either way."
A similar incident involving New Jersey forward Richard Jefferson occurred in Saturday's opening-round game between the Nets and New York Knicks.
"If you want to nitpick on technicalities, then you can suspend these guys," Carlisle said. "If you want to look at it a little differently and put benevolence and restraint ahead of technical issues, then I could see it going the other way. That's up to the league."
The league is also reportedly reviewing Hunter's foul of O'Neal and could charge Hunter with a flagrant foul. A flagrant foul two would result in a one-game suspension for Hunter. Carlisle, who intimated Sunday that Hunter was inserted into the game for the express purpose of getting physical with O'Neal, said that foul has to be dealt with if Artest's actions are under scrutiny.
"If they're going to deem this situation as a suspendable offense for one of our All-Star players, then they've got to take a hard look at what Hunter did," said Carlisle. "That's got to be dealt with with a severity that commensurate with our guy."