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.
May 23, 2015, 10:32 PM EDT
He did it in nine fewer games than Miller.
May 23, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Great stuff from the game’s best player.
May 23, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Ross, and the Raptors, had a disappointing season.
May 23, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
He certainly is one of the greatest ball handlers of all time.
Lakers GM: If free agents don’t choose L.A. because of Kobe Bryant, ‘we don’t want them. You should go someplace else.’
May 23, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Lakers need a strong-willed star to carry them into their next era of greatness.
May 23, 2015, 3:16 PM EDT
I’d say this puts the Hawks in a difficult spot, but they already were in one.
May 23, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
May 23, 2015, 12:08 PM EDT
The popular former Magic player would sell well to the fan base.
May 23, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Clean block that was unfortunately called a foul.
May 23, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Atlanta is already down 2-0 to Cleveland in the series, and if Korver misses any time, the Hawks are finished.
May 23, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
He would bring a defensive mindset that he team could use.
May 23, 2015, 12:25 AM EDT
Cleveland shut down Atlanta’s offense in a dominant Game 2 performance.
May 22, 2015, 11:16 PM EDT
LeBron was great, and that was enough against a Hawks team that keeps losing guys due to injury.
May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT
There’s also video of Harden doing some damage in the tunnel on the way to the locker room.
May 22, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
Ruled a flagrant, which was probably the correct call under the circumstances.
May 22, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
GM Mitch Kupchak: “It looks as though we’ll use our pick this year.”
May 22, 2015, 7:38 PM EDT
Irving is dealing with a knee injury.
May 22, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Explaining Stephen Curry’s game is just not that easy.
May 22, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT
Did they disagree? Sure. Was there a rift… depends on who you ask.
May 22, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT
Even an older NBA player has mad skills.
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