Knick suspended for entering stands
Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Knicks forward Antonio Davis was suspended five games by the NBA on Thursday for entering the stands during a game in Chicago to confront a fan he thought was harassing his wife.
While the penalty showed the NBA accepted Davis' argument that he believed his wife was in trouble during Wednesday night's game, it also made clear that entering the stands would not be tolerated, no matter the circumstances.
Especially not after last season's ugly brawl between fans and players at an Indiana-Detroit game.
"At the end of the day, what we had to decide on was the issue of Antonio breaking the barrier from the court into the stands," NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said during a conference call. "At the end of the day, that was the most important aspect of making that decision."
The trouble for Davis and his wife, however, might not be over.
Michael Axelrod, the 22-year-old fan that Davis confronted, said he did nothing wrong - and he plans to sue the player and his wife. Axelrod said Kendra Davis tried to scratch him after he protested a call. He said he never laid a hand on her and he was not drunk, as the New York forward contended.
"It's a lie," Axelrod said.
Jackson added that a player entering the stands normally results in a suspension of "double-digit games."
Davis' suspension was to start with Thursday night's home game against Detroit, and the players' union plans to file a grievance to commissioner David Stern. The Pistons were the home team the last time players went into the stands - when Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson fought with fans in November 2004.
An embarrassment for the NBA, the brawl led to criminal charges and lengthy suspensions for Artest, Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal.
"It's a totally different situation," said ex-Pacers star Reggie Miller, Davis' former teammate. "It was mayhem. He's coming to defense of a loved one. Ours was craziness."
The league was not nearly as harsh in this instance.
"Certainly the message was very clear after the Nov. 19 incident in that it was clear to our players that they were not to enter the stands under any circumstances," Jackson said. "Certainly this suspension is evident to the fact that we're very serious about that declaration. We realize there were some mitigating circumstances and we did in fact take that into account."
Still, Knicks coach Larry Brown and players' association director Billy Hunter were among those that thought the penalty was too severe.
"I could understand the league's point of view, but I'd like to put Stu Jackson or David Stern or one of those guys in that situation and see how they would have reacted," Brown said. "I'm amazed at the restraint he had."
Hunter said he thought a fine would have been enough, or at most a two-game ban. Hunter said the five-game penalty would cost Davis "close to $700,000."
Davis, president of the NBA players' association, jumped over the scorer's table to get in the stands at the United Center.
"I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated," he said in a statement after the game. "I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no time to call security. It happened too quickly."
Jackson and Hunter pointed out that the Knicks' top security official was not available at the time, having left the court to escort Maurice Taylor to the locker room after Taylor was ejected moments earlier.
Axelrod said all he had to drink was a glass of wine at dinner.
"When I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for the Bulls, and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they're playing," Axelrod said. "I don't feel comfortable if players are allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it's necessary."
Axelrod's father, David, is a prominent Democratic political consultant in Chicago who has worked with Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.
Axelrod's attorney, Jay Paul Deratany, said he planned to sue Davis and his wife for more than $1 million. Deratany said he was writing the papers Thursday for a battery suit against Kendra Davis and a slander case against Antonio Davis, and planned to file them Friday.
Deratany also said, "A public apology from the Davises would go a long way toward resolving this."
Davis has received support from several players - including some that were at the Indiana-Detroit brawl.
"This is one of those situations where if you don't react the way you react, there's no telling what might have happened," Pistons center Ben Wallace said. "Years from now you'll still be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn't react."
Davis is allowed to practice during his suspension but can't attend games. The Knicks will be forced to play with 11 players on their active roster.
According to Axelrod, he was sitting in the seventh row and booed an official's call. Kendra Davis "came out of her seat. I didn't even pay attention to her. I thought she was just going to the bathroom or something," he said.
Axelrod, who was sitting a couple of rows behind her, said she yelled at him to be quiet. Axelrod said he did not know she was Davis' wife until the player ran into the stands.
Axelrod said Kendra Davis put both hands on his face, and that he motioned for security. He said she later went after another fan.
"I was glad she was done hitting me, but I didn't want her to hit anyone else," Axelrod said.
Antonio Davis appeared calm throughout - though Axelrod said Davis used obscenities - and walked away willingly when security arrived. He returned to the bench and took his seat before being ejected. The game resumed after about a five-minute delay.
Axelrod was escorted to the concourse by security, but said he was allowed back into the arena and saw Ben Gordon's winning shot at the buzzer.
"His wife and kids were up there," Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. "If you see your family in harm's way, you're going to go protect them. You're the man of the house, and at that point you're thinking like a regular human instead of an athlete."
United Center security remained in the stands for a few more minutes, and other fans appeared to be explaining what they had seen. Guards in suits and yellow jackets then escorted a group of people from the area.
Brown said Davis went into the stands because he saw his wife "falling back."
Brown was coaching the Pistons in November 2004 when the fight broke out between fans and Pacers players during a Detroit home game. And he remains adamant that this situation should be viewed differently.
"I'm sure everything stems from that thing that went on," he said. "There was no correlation between those two events."
"I saw my wife being threatened," Davis said in a statement issued immediately after the game. "I felt I had to act. I did not have enough time to alert security." Davis was ejected. (AP Photo/Chicago Tribune, Charles Cherney)
Chicago Bulls fan Michael Axelrod stands along the Chicago River Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006. Axelrod was involved in an altercation during overtime in the Bulls' 106-104 victory Wednesday when Knicks forward Antonio Davis, who said he thought his wife was in danger, climbed into the stands to confront Axelrod. Deratany said he was writing the papers Thursday for a battery suit against Kendra Davis and a slander case against Antonio Davis and would sue Davis and his wife for more than $1 million. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
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