Welcome back to the podium, Adam Silver. You’re being asked once again to right the wrongs of your predecessor as NBA commissioner, David Stern. This time, the subject is not a bigoted bully.
This time, it’s Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw.
Remember when they came off the Phoenix bench during the 2007 playoffs after their Suns teammate, Steve Nash, was brutally hip-checked into the rotating advertising board by San Antonio’s Robert Horry? Remember how Stern suspended them for leaving the bench, helping the Spurs win Game 5 and eventually win the series in six games? The punishment seemed very unfair, even if the league rule states, “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.”
If Silver and his league top cop Rod Thorn stick by the letter of the law, as Stern did, then the Indiana Pacers may be screwed. After temporarily avoiding an offseason of embarrassment and upheaval with a 95-88 victory over Atlanta in Game 6 of their first-round series, the Pacers were peppered with questions about why their best player, Paul George, and reserve Rasual Butler stepped onto the court during an altercation between Indiana’s George Hill and Atlanta’s Mike Scott. The Hawks say the league has established a precedent and that George and Butler should be suspended for Game 7 on Saturday in Indianapolis. The Pacers say everyone should chill.
“I’m not concerned about any suspensions until we hear something,’’ coach Frank Vogel.
Let’s hope Silver and Thorn realize the rule is unjust and don’t take action. While realizing the league wants to prevent bench-clearing scuffles — a result of the 2004 Malice at the Palace debacle that involved the Pacers — taking a couple of steps onto the court isn’t remotely as serious as rushing off the bench and engaging in a brawl. If George is suspended, particularly after helping a dysfunctional team avoid a historic meltdown in this series, the Pacers will lose Game 7.
The Silver Hammer was necessary, obviously, for Donald Sterling. The commissioner can put it away for this occasion.