The WNBA suspended five Sparks players, including Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie, and five Detroit Shock players and assistant coach Rick Mahorn Thursday for their involvement in an on-court fight in Tuesday’s game.
As a result, the Sparks were without four starters, including Olympians Parker, Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones for their game against the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sparks lost, 87-61, to the Sun.
Parker, Leslie and Milton-Jones were suspended one game each for throwing punches toward the end of a 84-81 victory over the Shock, and starting point guard Shannon Bobbitt and reserve forward Murriel Page were suspended two games for leaving the bench area and making contact with Mahorn.
Page’s suspension will begin tonight at New York. Shock forward Plenette Pierson received a four-game suspension and Mahorn was suspended two games for escalating the altercation. Four other players from the Shock were suspended one game for leaving the bench area.
“None of us can recall an incident like this,” WNBA President Donna Orender said.
Said Parker: “It was just emotions spilling over and I was just happy that we came out with the victory.”
Sparks Coach Michael Cooper said, “You have to play the game by the rules and anybody that came off the bench or threw a punch, you have to live with the repercussions.”
The skirmish began with 4.6 seconds left in Tuesday’s game. Pierson, standing next to Parker as Sparks guard Marie Ferdinand-Harris shot a free throw, forcefully slid her hip into Parker. They tangled arms as they headed up court, causing both players to fall. Pierson quickly rose to her feet and stood over Parker, who then pulled Pierson to the ground.
"[Pierson] was clearly the aggressor,” Orender said.
As both benches emptied, Leslie came to Parker’s aid but was restrained by Mahorn. Leslie appeared to take a right-hand swing at Mahorn, who put his left hand out, causing Leslie to fall.
Milton-Jones then slapped Mahorn in the back, and Bobbitt and Page pushed him in the chest.
“As a team, we’re incensed that Rick Mahorn was suspended,” Detroit Coach Bill Laimbeer told the Associated Press.
Renee Brown, vice president of player personnel for the WNBA, said that Mahorn was initially the peacemaker, but “he just took it a step too far. When he pushed Lisa down, it escalated the situation.”
Shock forward Cheryl Ford re-injured her right knee while pulling Pierson away from the fracas and suffered a season-ending torn ligament.
Detroit, without its suspended players, lost to Houston, 79-61, on Thursday.