Shaquille O’Neal on Wednesday was suspended for one game and fined $10,250 by the NBA for instigating a fight during the Orlando Magic’s game against the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night.
The NBA also fined Derrick Coleman of the New Jersey Nets $5,000 for throwing a punch at Armon Gilliam of the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, but Coleman was not suspended.
O’Neal fought with the Pistons’ Alvin Robertson, who stepped between him and Bill Laimbeer, presumably as peacemaker. But Robertson wound up getting hit on the side of the head by O’Neal.
Robertson was fined $7,500 for retaliating. O’Neal was fined more because, in the NBA’s view, he was the instigator.
Piston Coach Ron Rothstein said the incident might have been avoided if an official had whistled Laimbeer for a foul as soon as he committed it. Instead, a call wasn’t made until Laimbeer had O’Neal in a bear hug.
“It was a simple call,” Rothstein said. “Just call the foul. We wanted Shaq on the line. He would not call the foul. So, Bill fouled him harder. Then he stumbled back into him, they got tangled up and all hell broke loose. Make the simple call. What was so difficult?”
Laimbeer had committed a similar foul less than two minutes before.
“He chopped me right across the head the first time,” O’Neal said. “I told him, ‘Don’t do it again or I’ll take care of you.’ If the man can’t (defend) me, he shouldn’t be in the game.”
Robertson, who grabbed O’Neal, said he was trying to prevent a fight. But O’Neal insisted Robertson provoked a fight by striking him below the belt.
“You got to go a long way to get me frustrated enough to swing, but that’s one way to do it,” O’Neal said. “I think I did the right thing. Why am I going to let someone hit me and me not fight back? Makes me look soft. And you know I’m not a soft person. If it happens again, got to do the same thing.”
O’Neal, who scored a career-low seven points, was ejected with 2:13 remaining. His suspension means he will miss tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets.
Coleman was not suspended for the Nets’ game against the Miami Heat tonight because his punch did not make contact, said Rod Thorn, the NBA’s vice president of operations. Gilliam was fined $2,000 for retaliating.