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NBA Suspends Anthony for 15 Games After MSG Brawl
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NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games Monday while six other players were penalized as commissioner David Stern clamped down hard on both teams after the brawl involving the Nuggets and Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith each received a 10-game fine, and four other players were also suspended. Stern fined each organization $500,000. However, there was no separate penalty for Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas, who had seemed to egg Anthony on before the mayhem started Saturday night.

It was the NBA's scariest moment since the brawl between Pacers players and Pistons fans two years ago. The league is still recovering from that episode, and Stern made it clear the players must learn self-control.

"We're going to go after the players who aren't able to stop," he said during a conference call. "We have set up the goal of eliminating fighting from our game. We haven't eliminated it completely."

Anthony's suspension was the sixth longest in NBA history. Mardy Collins, whose hard foul on Smith sparked the fighting, was suspended six games and Knicks teammate Jared Jeffries will miss four. The final bans will affect the Knicks' Jerome James and Denver's Nene who were both penalized one game for leaving the bench area during the chaos.

Ten players were ejected after the fight, which started with 1:15 left in Denver's 123-100 victory. The punishments were announced before both teams were to play Monday night with New York at home against Utah and Denver welcoming Washington.

"I was very disappointed," Stern said. "Clearly, we're not getting through but players in certain circumstances just don't want to be restrained. I would suggest that those players will not have long careers in the NBA."

Stern was especially troubled by the fight between Robinson and Smith that spilled into the stands.

"My concern is actually for the safety of the players and the fans, and when things get out of hand you cannot predict or project where they're going to go," Stern said. "There were certain players who weren't going to allow themselves to be calmed."

There was speculation Thomas would be penalized for his comments to Anthony. Stern acknowledged hearing about it, but said he relied only on "definitive information" when handing out punishments.

However, he was clearly irked by remarks from Thomas and the Knicks after the game that the problems were caused by the Nuggets still keeping four starters on the floor late despite their strong lead. The fine shows his seriousness in cleaning up the game.

"It's a more general message that I'm going to start holding our teams accountable," he said.

Collins prevented Smith from an easy basket by grabbing him by the neck and taking him to the floor. Smith rose and immediately started jawing with Collins, but Robinson jumped in to pull Smith away. Anthony shoved Robinson away, and Robinson and Smith then tumbled into the front row while fighting.

Just as things appeared to be calming down, Anthony threw a hard punch that floored Collins, and Jeffries sprinted from the baseline toward half-court in an effort to get at Anthony, before being tackled by a Denver player.

By the time security had finally contained Smith, they were nearly at the opposite end of the court from where the fighting broke out.

Before Stern talked, the Knicks held their morning shoot-around, where Thomas didn't back away from the Knicks' postgame assertions that some of the problems were caused by Denver coach George Karl leaving his starters on the floor too long.

"I can't speak for him, but he put his players in a tough position," Thomas said. "I think he put his players in a very bad position."

In Denver, Karl was irate with Thomas. Karl accused Thomas of a "premeditated" act, underscoring his disgust with the New York coach with expletives.

"It was directed by Isaiah," he responded. "I think his actions after the game were despicable. He made a bad situation worse. I'll swear on my children's life that I never thought about running up the score. I wanted to get a big win on the road."

"My team has had trouble holding leads at the end of games," he added. "I didn't want the score to get under 10 points because this would've had a negative feeling on my team."

Karl has bigger problems now. He'll be without Anthony until the Nuggets' game at Houston on Jan. 20, and Smith will be gone until Jan. 8. That duo has previously contributed over 48 points a game.

"It's going to be tough," said Nuggets center Marcus Camby, one of the five players ejected who wasn't suspended. "It's already tough being in the Western Conference, and missing guys like J.R. and Carmelo is going to make it even worse."

Anthony's conduct represents a big blow to the player, team and league. He starred as the U.S. team captain at the World Championships this summer, and had been getting more marketing opportunities as one of the league's brightest young stars.

Stern took none of that into account when issuing his decision. "We judged him on his actions on the court, period," Stern said. "And they deserved a harsh penalty."

(China Daily via AP December 19, 2006)

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