This should be fodder for NBA conspiracy theorists: Would the NBA actually suspend Indiana’s Paul George for a seventh game of a playoff series?
UPDATE: The answer is no. The NBA has decided to not suspend any players for Game 7. Can’t say that’s a surprise.
If you missed it, George and teammate Rasaul Butler left the bench in the Hawks-Pacers first-round playoff game Thursday night during an altercation between the Hawks’ Mike Scott and Indiana’s George Hill. Video shows Butler coming much farther onto the court than George, who took two steps onto the court before both players were held back by an assistant coach.
Here’s the video:
There was a similar incident in a 2007 playoff game between San Antonio and Phoenix, when the Spurs’ Robert Horry gave a hard foul to the Suns’ Steve Nash, prompting Amare Stoudemire to leave the Phoenix bench. (Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was a Spurs assistant coach.)
Stoudemire was suspended for Game 5 of that series, prompting this comment: “I am disappointed that the NBA looked at the letter of the rule and not the spirit of the rule. I admit I stepped on the court, and that I should have had some more restraint, but Tim Duncan did the same thing but just not in such an aggressive manner. The rules are the rules, and I abide by them, and in that same vein, I think it would be beneficial for the league then to have also taken a further look at Tim Duncan.”
Here’s video of Horry’s hit on Nash that prompted Stoudemire (near one minute mark) to leave bench area. You can see Stoudemire (wearing No. 1) taking one foot onto the court:
Stu Jackson was the NBA’s executive vice-president under then commissioner David Stern when the suspension was handed out. “The rule with respect to leaving the bench area during an altercation is very clear. Historically, if you break it, you will get suspended, regardless of what the circumstances are,” he said then.
But Jackson said on Twitter Thursday night that he expects Butler to get suspended but not George.
The view certainly seems to be different from the couch than it was in his office.
But if this rule is followed by the letter of the law, like it was in 2007, shouldn’t George be suspended? Here’s the exact wording:
Rule No. 12, Section VII, Item 3 (c): “During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000. The suspensions will commence prior to the start of their next game.”
This all comes down to the interpretation of “immediate vicinity.” But the video affirms George was on the floor.
The question is whether the NBA would actually suspend George, the best player on the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, for a deciding game? Doubtful.