An altercation late in the third quarter of the Rockets-Suns game resulted in the ejection of Matt Barnes and Rafer Alston.
With the Rockets riding a solid ten-point lead, Barnes responded in frustration to a Rafer Alston screen by throwing him an aggressive forearm check. That's when things began to deteriorate.
Alston got up in Barnes face.
McGrady went to separate the two.
Nash shoved Alston.
McGrady shoved Nash to the floor.
Shaq threw everyone on the court to the floor.
With the benches almost empty, I watched the mayhem that ensued. Things escalated quickly as Shaq's shove relocated the altercation to the court-side spectators. It was then I began to realize how many aggressive and volatile personalities were on the court.
Alston had been in the Queens Bar Stabbing over the summer. There was the Nash, Stoudemire, and Horry incident. Shaq had slapped Greg Ostertag. McGrady choked out his Mt. Zion coach. Matt Barnes flat-out looks scary.
And of course, Ron Artest.
But where was Artest? I followed the cameras as they weaved in and out of the shoving match and through the refs and coaches. I watched the replays and scanned the first few levels of the crowd. I couldn't find Ron Artest anywhere.
The proximity to the fans made me instantly picture the Detroit Mayhem and Artest was missing. As things settled down and the replays stopped, I spotted Ron Ron in the upper corner of one of the cameras.
Ron Artest sat calmly, with his hands in his laps and a towel on his shoulder. He wasn't angry, he wasn't emotional—he hadn't even left the bench. I'm not even sure if Artest was watching. He waited patiently for the madness to settle and returned to the court when play resumed.
While his past is checkered, and his every move is documented, Artest showed complete restraint.
He plays lock-down defense, is a consistent scorer, and has the heart of a "true warrior." But his decision to stay on the bench might just be his biggest impact to the Rockets.
With Artest's head on straight, the Rockets are a dangerous team.