May 2, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT
UPDATE 4:44 pm: The Indiana Pacers will have Paul George for Game 7. That according to Ken Berger at CBSSports.com:
I think this was the right call by the league. It is possible that under some older, stricter interpretations of the rule you could have gone after George (or more strongly Rasual Butler) but I think that misses the spirit of the rule — keep the guys on the bench from escalating things. That didn’t even come close to happening here. No reason to taint a Game 7 for that.
11:27 am: The Pacers and Hawks will play a Game 7 tomorrow. Will Paul George and Rasual Butler play in it?
Let’s start with the relevant rule:
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 four feet in the corner belong to Butler and George. Butler, in the black shoes, goes farthest – partway inside the 3-point arc. George, in the gold shoes, doesn’t go quite as far, but he steps all the way inbounds.
The coach in slacks and black shoes to their right is permitted to leave the bench to break up the fight. The rule applies only to players.
So, what will happen to George and Butler?
NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn will decide. His predecessor, Stu Jackson, offered his opinion:
“A precedent wasn’t necessary here,” Jackson said. “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.”
That was David Stern’s NBA, and with Adam Silver now in charge and Thorn determining punishment, precedent doesn’t necessarily apply.
Regardless, this is as close a call as I’ve seen. The key question: What defines “the immediate vicinity” of a bench?
During live-ball situations, players routinely wander over the sideline without penalty. Crossing the sideline alone doesn’t cause penalty. It matters only if they interfere with play.
Neither Butler nor George interfered with the fight, but that’s not the standard. The rule is designed to prevent fights from escalating and players leaving “the immediate vicinity of their bench” alone causes a suspension.
As the NBA hoped, the rule worked here. George immediately retreated to the bench after stepping forward, and though Butler went farther and wasn’t quite as quick getting back, he returned without incident, too.
But the NBA also wants to maintain the conditions that currently exist. When players fighting see players on the bench come toward the altercation – even if just a step or two before retreating – that can escalate the incident. The league also surely wants to discourage players from even considering leaving the bench.
The question might become: How relative is “immediate vicinity” to where the fight occurs?
If the fight had spilled closer to the Pacers’ bench, even if George and Butler maintained their exact position just inside the sideline, I think we’d be having an entirely different conversation. I have little doubt both would be suspended in that case.
Last night, multiple Hawks came onto the court during the fight. Look over Frank Vogel’s left shoulder in the background:
Atlanta’s bench was on the far end of the court, nowhere near the fight. Do the Hawks then have a larger area considered the “immediate vicinity” of their bench?
If the term is not relative to where the fight occurs, Atlanta players should be facing suspension, too.
If “immediate vicinity” is a relative term, and I suspect it is, the NBA faces a tough decision on whether George and Butler left the bench..
As an aside, I found this section the rule very interesting:
If five or more players leave the bench, the players will serve their suspensions alphabetically, according to the first letters of their last name.
A team must have a minimum of eight players dressed and ready to play in every game.
So, if a team’s next game is big and its star player leaves the bench during a fight, at least four of his teammates who come before him alphabetically should also leave the bench – forcing a one-game delay of the star’s suspension.
Maybe that’s what Rasual Butler was going for here? (Not really.)
It wouldn’t have worked, anyway. George ranks fifth on the team alphabetically, and Chris Copeland was already in the game. So, at most, only three teammates before George could have gotten suspended with him.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:27 PM EDT
He is a good fit in the Rockets’ up-tempo system.
Jul 3, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
She’s a San Antonio assistant coach
Jul 3, 2015, 4:31 PM EDT
Key for the Wizards is this is a one-year deal, so they save their cap space for a Kevin Durant offer next summer.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
This is a huge blow to the Clippers roster.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT
This was expected, now the Knicks move forward with Robin Lopez.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:52 PM EDT
Solid deal in a vacuum, but in Sacramento…
Report: Knicks to sign Robin Lopez to four-year, $54 million contract (unless DeAndre Jordan changes his mind)
Jul 3, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT
More evidence Jordan won’t pick Knicks
Jul 3, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT
Washington could land David West
Jul 3, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT
Third year is reportedly a team option
Jul 3, 2015, 11:08 AM EDT
I doubt Sacramento is celebrating quite yet
Jul 3, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT
Brooklyn making most of a self-inflicted bad situation
Jul 3, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT
If LaMarcus Aldridge signs elsewhere, San Antonio makes a lot of sense
Jul 3, 2015, 9:14 AM EDT
So Knicks are probably getting Robin Lopez
Jul 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
In this market even if these deals are misses, they are correctable ones.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
I don’t think the Lakers are all that serious here.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:19 AM EDT
Sacramento had made a big push but again missed out on their target.
Jul 2, 2015, 11:31 PM EDT
Martin had hoped to return full-time last season, but the opportunity never materialized.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT
Sacramento needs to overpay much more than that to lure free agents.
Jul 2, 2015, 9:22 PM EDT
Lopez is solid, and New York and L.A. need talent after striking out with the big names thus far.
Report: Damian Lillard planning L.A. visit to try to convince LaMarcus Aldridge to re-sign with Blazers
Jul 2, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
Interesting wrinkle to the Aldridge free agency saga.
- Report: DeAndre Jordan agrees to four-year, $80 million deal to join Dallas Mavericks 32
- Report: Kings signing Marco Belinelli to three-year, $19 million contract 14
- Report: Knicks to sign Robin Lopez to four-year, $54 million contract (unless DeAndre Jordan changes his mind) 8
- PBT Extra: Free agent signings we didn’t love 6
- Report: Wes Matthews reaches agreement to join Dallas Mavericks 22
- PBT Extra: Five best free agent signings in the first days of free agency 11
- Dwyane Wade agrees to one-year, $20 million deal to stay with Heat 55
- PBT Podcast: Talking best signings of free agency so far 0