Near the end of the first half of game six, a minor skirmish broke out between Mike Scott of the Atlanta Hawks and George Hill of the Indiana Pacers. The players were quickly separated before things escalated and both players were given technical fouls.
But more important to the series overall is what happened nearby on the Pacers bench.
As the altercation starts, Pacers All-Star Paul George steps onto the court. In addition, back-up forward Rasual Butler also comes on to the court. George is the player on the far right on the Pacers bench
In the past, the NBA has strictly enforced the rule that forbids players from stepping onto the court during altercations. Here is another angle.
George does come completely on to the court. But it is hard to imagine the NBA would suspend an All-Star player from game seven of a playoff series when he did not really make any effort to get involved in the altercation.
However, there is precedent.
In 2007, Amar’e Stoudemire, then playing for the Phoenix Suns in the 2007 playoffs against the Spurs, was suspended for one game after stepping onto the court when a skirmish broke out (1:06 mark of this video).
Here is the wording in the NBA rule book:
“During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench.”
The Pacers and George have two things going for them: 1) George did not make an aggressive move towards the play; and 2) The NBA has a new commissioner who can offer a new interpretation of the rule.
In his short tenure as commissioner, Adam Silver is already facing his second big challenge with one team’s season hanging in the balance.
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