Brawl ends Pacers-Pistons game at The Palace
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
AUBURN HILLS -- The NBA community is wagging its finger and shaking its head in disgust at the Pistons, their fans and the Indiana Pacers today after an ugly brawl forced an early ending to the Pacers' 97-82 victory Friday night at The Palace.Pacers fight night
How long should the Pacers players involved in the fight with fans at The Palace be suspended?
The rest of the season
The game was halted with 45.9 seconds left, after a fight -- which started with a Ben Wallace push on Ron Artest -- nearly escalated into a riot, involving both benches and coaches and eventually spilling into the crowd.
"It was a disgraceful situation," said ESPN analyst and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton. "There were no winners whatsoever. There is no excuse for players to go into the stands. The privilege and honor that goes with being an NBA player prohibits you from ever crossing that line. It was a frightful, devastating experience and there will be major ramifications for both teams and will have an impact on the rest of this NBA season."
The fans, most of whom had already left, were also far from blameless, throwing beer, food and even a chair at the players.
The NBA issued a statement late Friday that they would not comment on the situation until they had more time to sift through the details. Players from both teams were told not to comment.
Auburn Hills police, as well as state police, were on site and are continuing to investigate for possible criminal activity.
One thing is certain -- there will be many suspensions and fines, and some players -- like Artest, Stephen Jackson and Ben Wallace -- could be out for an extended number of games.
Every Pacers player was allowed to leave the building. They host Orlando Saturday. There was talk that Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal might be arrested. He and teammate Anthony Johnson both punched a fan -- whose name was believed to be Charles Hadad -- who had run onto the court after O'Neal. Johnson hit him first, O'Neal knocked him cold.
Then, after he was hit by a folding chair thrown by a fan as he was walking through the tunnel, O'Neal got into an altercation in the tunnel with another fan, in front of Auburn Hills police.
Several fans were treated for minor injuries, including Pacers play-by-play man Mark Boyle, who was cut on the forehead when he tried to stop Artest from going into the crowd.
Hadad was carted off on a stretcher. Women and children were crying. It was a terrifying situation.
No arrests were made Friday and police will continue their investigation.
"It was the ugliest thing I ever seen in my life," said Pistons Coach Larry Brown, who despite his ailing left hip, was trying to pull players off of each other. "I am embarrassed for our league and disappointed to be part of this."
Here's how it started. The Pacers were up by 15. Wallace was going up for a shot and Artest shoved him hard in the back.
Wallace responded by shoving Artest hard in the upper chest and face.
"Artest never made an attempt for the ball," Brown said. "They were up 15 points with 45 seconds left. I don't think that's something you expect. Ben didn't throw a punch. He pushed him."
The benches emptied quickly. Tayshaun Prince was the only player from both teams that remained on the bench. Leaving the bench in a fight brings an automatic one-game suspension.
That means Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, Elden Campbell, Darvin Ham and Antonio McDyess, all of whom left the bench, could get a one-game suspension.
Wallace, too, will probably get several games.
Lindsey Hunter, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Smush Parker were on the court at the time.
Referees were unable to completely subdue Wallace, Artest or Pacers guard Stephen Jackson, who was going after several players.
Artest laid down on the scorer's table and started goofing around. Lying on his back, he put on a Pacers radio broadcaster's headset and appeared to be granting an interview.
That incensed Wallace, who threw his sweatband at Artest. Almost at the same time, a fan threw a plastic cup of beer on Artest.
That set Artest off. He raced into the stands and started swinging. The first person he hit was Mike Ryan of Clarkston.
"I have no idea," Ryan said of why Artest picked him. "He was on top of me, pummeling me and he said, "Did you do it? Did you do it?' And I said, 'No, man, no.' He kind of shoved me and went off on other people."
Jackson was the first to join Artest in the crowd. He threw and landed several wild punches on fans. He was also hit hard across the head by a fan who attacked him from behind.
At that point, numerous players, including Rasheed Wallace and the Pacers' Fred Jones and coaches jumped into the crowd to try and pull the players out. Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle was instrumental in getting both Artest and Jackson out of the crowd. Former Piston Rick Mahorn, who was broadcasting the game on WDFN-1130, also jumped in and helped police the situation.
It took about 15 minutes before the players were removed from the stands. Fans pelted the Pacers players with beer and food as they walked through the tunnel to their locker room. A chair was thrown at O'Neal.
"It was a terrible thing for sports and for basketball," said Tom Wilson, president of Palace Sports and Entertainment. "However upset you get as a player -- and they may have had reason to be very upset -- you don't cross that line. We're paid a whole lot of money to turn the other cheek."
Wilson said there was no security failure. He said Palace security, as well as the police, reacted quickly and properly.
"But for the last foul, none of this would have happened," Wilson said. "It's an emotional game because it's an emotional rivalry. You know, I've never seen this happen and I hope I never see it again. I think the consequences will be severe enough that it will never happen again."
It was the first time in 47 years that a Pistons basketball game was not allowed to finish.
The league could start issuing fines and suspensions as early as today.
Yeah, there's a bunch of garbage in there. Thought everyone would get a kick out of the Piston's side of the story.
Bad news that the guy that JO clocked had to be taken out on a stretcher.
The survey on this page asks how long the Pacers' players should be suspended - the lowest choice is 5 games and another option is 'rest of the season'. I don't think the NBA is seriously considering 'rest of the season'; I'd like to see the NBA fine the Pistons $5,000,000 for lack of security and lack of crowd control. Isn't it funny that Tom Wilson says security was sufficient when (1) a security guard punched Fred Jones from behind twice; and (2) Chuck Person and Reggie Miller were the only ones *brave* enough to escort Ron Artest out of the building.
Tell you what... I'm always proud of the Rifleman.