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Excitement at the United Center

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jan 19, 2006 8:47PM

It's been a while since there's been as much excitement at the UC as there was last night. The Bulls won an exciting 106-104 game on a Ben Gordon shot as time expired in OT. Having missed a nearly identical shot with seconds left in regulation when he could have dished to an open Darius Songaila, he redeemed himself with the game winner. But that shot may not have been the biggest excitement at the UC.

2006_01_sports_antonio_davis.jpgThe game was marred by ugliness reminicent of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry of the mid-90's. Rough play lead to tussles on court, eventually resulting in Maurice Taylor and the typically mild-mannered Chris Duhon being ejected.

That energy carried into the stands where a drunk Bulls fan harrassed the wife and family of the Knicks' Antonio Davis. Upon noticing this, David jumped the scorers' table and charged into the stands to protect his wife.

The first incident in which a player has gone into the stands since the infamous Ron Artest incident last season, the national media is all over this story. In drawing comparisons to the ugliness, they try to paint Davis as similar to those involved in last year's mess. The media is rampant with speculation over how long the league will suspend Davis.

But Antonio Davis, who played used to play for the Bulls before being sent to NY as part of the Eddy Curry trade, isn't one of the "bad guys." An elder statesman of the players, he serves as President of the Players Union. Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh defended Davis' actions, saying they were a "human reaction."

Davis said as much when he released a statement following the game appologizing for his actions:

I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated. 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.

Chicagoist thinks there was probably a way to get security involved as quickly as he acted, but the mind often doesn't think rationally when confronted with extreme circumstances. While Davis' actions were clearly out of bounds of the league's rules, the circumstances and his reputation should factor into the league's decision.

Immediately ejected from the game for going into the stands, the NBA is looking into the matter and will likely suspend Davis. NBA Commissioner David Stern is expected to announce it's ruling today. But how long will Davis be suspended? We've heard suggestions ranging from 1 to 8 games.

Certainly, Davis won't face anything like those the Pacers' players received last year. But what is appropriate? Were Chicagoist the league commish, we'd give him 2 games. Missing 2 games and the resulting loss of $250,000 in pay is certainly no small punishment. On the other hand, pretty much anybody would jump to defend their family if they perceived a threat and if there's anybody who should get the benefit of the doubt it's Antonio Davis. The league made examples of Ron Artest et al last year with their huge suspensions. This event doesn't require making an example of Davis.