It’s clear from the video that Paul George, the Indiana Pacers’ best player, took a step and a half onto the court when teammate George Hill squared off against the Atlanta Hawks’ Mike Scott late in the second quarter of Game 6 on Thursday. At issue now is whether that step and a half, which isn’t enough to warrant a traveling violation, will disqualify George from Saturday’s Game 7.
Esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore reports that the NBA will review the matter. A decision should come today.
UPDATE: As Vivlamore writes, the decision came. Nobody will be suspended for Game 7.
The longstanding NBA rule warrants a one-game suspension for players who leave “the immediate vicinity of the bench.” There’s wiggle room there — is a step and a half within the contours of “the immediate vicinity”? — but weighty precedent seems to trump the wiggle. In 1997, the New York Knicks saw Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston , Larry Johnson and John Starks suspended for a playoff game after leaving the bench in reponse to a fight between Charlie Ward and Miami’s P.J. Brown. (Because so many Knicks, Ward included, were involved, the suspensions were spread over Games 6 and 7. The Heat won both.)
In 2007, Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns were suspended for Game 5 of a tied series against San Antonio for leaving the bench after the Spurs’ Robert Horry slammed Steve Nash into the scorer’s table at the close of Game 4. (Horry was suspended for two games) The Spurs won Games 5 and 6.
George and Pacers teammate Rasual Butler didn’t take part in Thursday’s altercation, and the tape shows that they halted themselves — or were halted by coaches — before they could draw near Hill and Scott. But this is one of those rules that the NBA has, at least over time, taken seriously.
The guess here: It’s 55-45 against George (and Butler) playing in Game 7. Not quite a coin flip, but close.
Update: Stu Jackson, who used to be in charge of adjudicating such matters, has tweeted this.
Further update: This screen capture off TV has been making the Twitter rounds, and it suggests that the Hawks might have some “immediate vicinity” issues, too.