Nuggets, Knicks in wild brawl near end of game
By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer
December 17, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NBA has another ugly scene to recover from. This one involved its leading scorer and happened in its most famous arena.
Denver's Carmelo Anthony and the other nine players on the court at the time were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl between the Nuggets and Knicks, triggered in part by a New York team that felt it was being shown up on its home floor.
Multiple players, including Anthony, threw punches, and New York's Nate Robinson and Denver's J.R. Smith -- fouled hard by Mardy Collins on the play that started the brawl -- flew into the first row of the crowd while fighting during the NBA's scariest scene since Indiana players fought with Detroit fans in 2004.
Smith had a red mark along the left side of his face, but there were no other injuries among the players. No fans were directly involved, even after the fighting spilled into the seats.
According to the Knicks, the whole thing happened because the Nuggets still had their starters on the floor with 1:15 left and a 19-point lead. Denver won 123-100.
"They just wanted to embarrass us," Robinson said. "It was a slap in the face to us. As a team, as a franchise, we weren't going to let that happen. A clean, hard foul happened and after that it went down from there."
The foul wasn't clean at all. Collins grabbed Smith around the neck as he was going in for a breakaway layup. Anthony and Robinson quickly jumped in, and the melee went from one end of the court all the way to the other.
Anthony threw a punch at Collins, and now awaits what will surely be strong punishment from a league still trying to repair its image after the melee in Auburn Hills, Mich.
"Something's going to happen, but we shall see and wait," Anthony said. "I don't really want to comment on that right now."
The NBA didn't, either. Spokesman Tim Frank said the league would "review the incident in its entirety. Until then, it would not be appropriate to comment."
But the players can expect a harsh penalty with the brawl happening at Madison Square Garden, right in the hometown of NBA headquarters.
"I feel bad for the league, I feel bad for the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "Very poor display of respecting basketball and respecting the game in the best place in the world to play basketball."
There had previously been some bad blood between Karl and Knicks coach Isiah Thomas over the handling of the Larry Brown firing. Karl and Brown are close friends.
But Karl wouldn't talk about why he had his starters on the floor late in a blowout, in the closing minutes of a back-to-back that closed a five-game road trip.
Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony (15) gestures to the New York Knicks bench as he leaves the court after a fight broke out during the second half of basketball action at Madison Square Garden in New York , Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. All 10 players on the court at the time were tossed for their involvement in the incident that spread across the court and spilled into the crowd at Madison Square Garden. The Nuggets won the game, 123-100.
Thomas said he even told Anthony that he never should have been in the game at the time.
"I just said to him, 'You know, you're up 20, you're up 19 with a minute and half to go, you and (Marcus) Camby really shouldn't be in the game right now,"' Thomas said. "We had surrendered, those guys shouldn't even be in the game at that point in time."
After the hard foul by Collins, Smith got up and jawed with Collins and Robinson jumped in to yell at Smith -- who had thrown down a reverse dunk on a fast break minutes earlier.
"They were having their way with us," Thomas said. "I think J.R. Smith had just made one dunk when he reversed and spun in the air. And I think Mardy didn't want our home crowd to see that again. So he fouled him."
Anthony rushed in and pushed Robinson in the neck, triggering the roughest moment, when Robinson and Smith went flying into the stands while fighting with each other. Anthony then threw his punch at Collins, then backed away toward the center of the court.
New York's Jared Jeffries ran from the baseline toward Anthony, but was tackled by a Denver player. The brawl stretched to the other end of the court toward the Nuggets' bench before coaches and security finally pulled Smith away and restored order.
Smith was yelling as he was escorted back to the locker room, unsure why Collins fouled him as hard as he did.
"I don't even know," Smith said. "That's the first time I ever seen the dude."
Camby, Andre Miller, Eduardo Najera, Smith and Anthony were the Nuggets who were ejected; Channing Frye, David Lee, Collins, Robinson and Jeffries were the Knicks who were kicked out.
"Clearly this isn't how we or the NBA wants to be perceived," Thomas said. "It should have been a foul and the guy takes two free throws and maybe some words, but it shouldn't have escalated. This isn't even a rivalry."
Highlights of the fight were on in NBA locker rooms around the league, and players stopped buttoning their shirts or paused mid-sentence during interviews to see what happened.
"Obviously, it's unfortunate. You never want to see that. It just doesn't belong in the NBA," said Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, who saw clips of the brawl shortly after the Mavericks had won in New Orleans. "Hopefully we can all forget about it as soon as we can."
New York Knicks' Nate Robinson, left, fights Denver Nuggets' J.R. Smith, right, during the second half of basketball action at Madison Square Garden in New York, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2006. Ten players, including NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony, were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl near the end of Saturday night's game between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. All 10 players on the court at the time were tossed for their involvement in the incident that spread across the court and spilled into the crowd at Madison Square Garden.
With each team forced to put five new players on the floor, Denver finished up the win and ended a two-game losing streak. Camby had 24 points and nine rebounds, and Miller added 12 points and 10 assists.
Anthony was in the midst of a superb second half, having scored 23 points in 23 minutes after halftime. He finished with 34.
Camby, a former Knicks center, added seven blocked shots, and the Nuggets shot a season-best 57 percent from the field.
Stephon Marbury had his best game of the season for the Knicks, scoring a season-high 31 points and adding eight assists. Eddy Curry had 19 points, Robinson scored 17, and Lee finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.