They’re all yours, Mr. Stern


If David Stern has the power to suspend people for sheer stupidity, now is the time to exercise it on the worst offenders of the Nuggets-Knicks brawl in Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

With the NBA simultaneously trying to mine its new lode of superstars while attempting to bury its recent run of bad headlines, Carmelo Anthony, Mardy Collins, Nate Robinson, J.R. Smith, Jared Jeffries and Isiah Thomas just caused the tunnel to collapse with their foolish actions and inane statements.

It wasn’t the swinging fists or the twisted jerseys or the 10 -- ten! -- ejections that stick in my head. It’s the idiotic lack of control that allowed it to all transpire. Just for that, Commissioner Stern can fire at will. Double-digit suspensions all around.


To recap the road that led us here:

It has been only two years since the melee at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Since then we’ve had the emergence of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the high-scoring Phoenix Suns, the splash of foreign stars such as Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming and the return to respectability of the Lakers.

The NBA’s leading scorer, Allen Iverson, had been off the scene for a week while the Philadelphia 76ers tried to trade him.

Anthony had just surpassed Iverson’s scoring average, the latest triumph for the 2003 triumvirate of Anthony, James and Wade.

The players had won a rare victory when Stern acquiesced to their complaints (and union’s grievance) by agreeing to ditch the cheap-feel synthetic balls and return to the beloved leather basketballs.

That last point can’t be emphasized enough. They made Stern reverse. That never happens. It’s hard to imagine him even backing into a parking space.

This isn’t a good time to cross him. It’s like asking your boss for a raise the day his wife left him. He just gave the players something and they turned around and made him look bad, right down the street from his office.


Stern will be relentless now. He’ll aim a laser at all of the players’ tattoos and take the clippers to their cornrows. He won’t stop until everyone looks and acts just the way he wants.

Normally I’m pro-player, from higher salaries to longer shorts if that’s what they want. Fans pay to watch them play, not to see coaches coach, owners own or commissioners commission. But if they can’t act right, if they can’t do their part to protect this billion-dollar business, then they don’t deserve any breaks.

The NBA, more than any sport, is based on image. And the images we’ll be seeing from here until Christmas will be out-of-control players swinging at one another. Have they been studying from the Britney Spears-Nicole Richie school of public relations?

Here’s my best synopsis of what went wrong Saturday night, after multiple reviews.

With the Nuggets blowing out the Knicks in the final minutes, Denver’s Smith went up for a fastbreak layup. New York’s Collins grabbed Smith around the neck and threw him to the ground. Smith got up and got in Collins’ face along the baseline. Now that’s natural and understandable. At that point it was nothing a double-technical foul couldn’t cure.

Then New York’s Robinson came in and shoved Smith, as Knicks teammates David Lee and Jeffries grabbed Smith. Robinson swung at Smith as Anthony came rushing in and grabbed Robinson by the neck. Lee pulled Smith away. Meanwhile, Denver’s Eduardo Najera grabbed Jeffries in a sleeper hold. Smith broke free from Lee and tackled Robinson into the expensive seats.

Anthony threw Channing Frye on the floor, then turned to rejoin the fracas. He shoved Jeffries away, into the front row, and confronted Collins. He took a big swing with his right fist, staggering Collins. Instead of holding up his teammate, Jeffries let Collins fall to the floor while he went after Anthony.


So the ones who really caused it to escalate were Robinson, Anthony, Smith and Jeffries. And the principals made it worse with their comments afterward.

No remorse that the situation got out of hand. No apologies to kids that were watching.

“I just don’t want to comment on that right now,” Anthony said. “It’s too early.”

Robinson said: “We’ve just got to look past this now.”

Thomas showed that he has completely lost his mind in his postgame news conference. The Knicks’ coach acted as if the problem was Anthony’s mere presence on the court.

“You’re up 19 with a minute and a half to go, you and [Marcus] Camby really shouldn’t be in the game right now,” he said he told Anthony. “We had surrendered and those guys shouldn’t have even been in the game.”

So the Nuggets brought all this on themselves? If you have a problem with their actions when they lead by 19 points, don’t let them get ahead by 19 points.

And if the players have a problem with the way Stern unilaterally makes decisions, they shouldn’t give him excuses to take away their privileges. For their actions that undermined the efforts of all those trying to give the league a better image, Stern should suspend these guys 10 to 15 games each -- and force them to dribble the new basketball while they’re sitting.


J.A. Adande can be reached at To read more by Adande, go to