In a moment that will live on in infamy among NBA viewers, Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics was involved in a brawl with Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace of the Brooklyn Nets. One day later, a two-game suspension has been handed down for Rondo and a $35,000 fine for Wallace (via ESPN Boston).
Commissioner David Stern and the NBA missed a golden opportunity to send a message to the league's hotheads.
Whether or not you agree with Rondo standing up for his teammate is one thing. The fact that this physical confrontation endangered fans in attendance and came in front of a large television audience makes it inexcusable.
Which is exactly why the punishments should have been more severe.
To offer Rondo a suspension of 20-plus games would have been extreme, no matter how much Nets fans called for it. The fact of the matter is, Rondo and Wallace each failed to represent the NBA in the manner expected of them.
An act reprehensible in its own right.
As team leaders and role models for young people across the world, this course of action displays a poor grasp on responsibility. Even if it was favorable from an internal standpoint for Rondo to defend Kevin Garnett, this is not the type of response to tension the NBA wants to teach.
Nor is it the way Stern wants this league to be represented.
This clearly wasn't the "Malice in the Palace" of Auburn Hills or Carmelo Anthony throwing a sucker punch at Mardy Collins. What it was, however, was a violation of a very important unwritten rule that all NBA players should be aware of.
If you're going to exact physical revenge, keep it on the court. Don't ever let it spill into the crowd.
Minor Intentions with Major Repercussions
No matter which way you cut it, it doesn't appear as if there was malicious intent from either party involved. Kris Humphries' foul on Kevin Garnett appeared to be less severe on replay than it did in live action, while Rondo was standing up for his teammate more than he was attacking Humphries.
Unfortunately, minor intentions can have major repercussions.
In an interview with WEEI sports radio in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stated that Rondo will be suspended for two games (via ESPN Boston). Rondo proceeded to defend his actions, citing that there was no attempt at violence on his behalf:
Well, I thought the play on Kevin was a malicious play, you know? I got hurt last year on a similar play like that -- a guy going up in the air, defenseless, on his way down. And you know, I just, I pushed Humphries. And after that, it was a pushing war.
I know I have to be out there for my teammates. That's the only thing about it. But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn't try to start a fight. I'm not trying to be a bully. I just didn't think the play was fair that he made on Kevin, that's all.
There was no apparent intent to harm on Rondo's behalf during the shoving battle between himself and a man who should have swatted him away like a fly. After all, Humphries is eight inches taller and 49 pounds heavier than Rondo.
With that being said, Rondo and Humphries were directly responsible for a scuffle that poured into the seating area along the baseline, an act that is certainly punishable based on the league's history with such violence.
Stern and the NBA should have made it known that even the most minor of physical altercations is punishable by a severe course of action. Whether that's a monetary fine or a suspension for all involved, it must be made clear that this action is intolerable in the NBA.
Even if it was an overblown misunderstanding.
Potential for Fan Involvement
Ever since the nation witnessed the Malice in the in the Palace of Auburn Hills, there has been an overwhelming concern over fan and player interaction. This is specifically in reference to the potential for violence between the two parties, which was a legitimate possibility last night.
Rondo tackled Humphries into the stands, more or less, which potentially could've triggered the fans from the peaceful Boston crowd to revolt.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the Malice in the Palace, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers were involved in a brawl with fans of the Detroit Pistons. The action transpired both in the stands and on the court, although the most memorable image is of Artest and Jackson brawling with Pistons supporters roughly 10 rows up.
Something that David Stern and company had to fear would transpire last night in Boston.
With the potential for a repeat of the most infamous moment in NBA history, Stern must do all he can to ensure it will not happen again. Although a double-digit game suspension would be rather harsh, Stern should have found a way to penalize all involved.
By not doing so, the potential for a Part II is now upon us. The NBA missed a golden opportunity to send a very important message.