Thomas questions retaliating, fighting call

Posted: Monday, March 04, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Indiana Pacers reacted angrily Sunday to the NBA's decision to suspend Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant two games apiece for their fight at the end of a game.

Both players also were fined -- Bryant $12,500 and Miller $10,000 -- for one of the NBA's higher-profile fights in recent seasons. It occurred shortly after the final buzzer of the Los Angeles Lakers' 96-84 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on Friday night.

''I am extremely disappointed,'' Miller said in a statement issued before the Pacers' game against the Sacramento Kings. ''I was confident the league, after reviewing the tape and interviewing those involved, would see it was clear that I was neither the instigator nor the aggressor in this incident.

''Kobe has other issues he has to deal with. This had nothing to do with me or the basketball game played on Friday evening.''

The NBA suspended Bryant for ''throwing a punch and fighting'' and Miller for ''retaliating against Bryant and fighting.''

''It makes absolutely no sense to me,'' Pacers coach Isiah Thomas said. ''It just doesn't add up. We lose one of our most valuable guys for two games for something that wasn't his fault. ... We were shocked.''

Bryant will miss the Lakers' home games Sunday against the Houston Rockets and Tuesday against the New Jersey Nets. Miller was to miss Sunday's game against the Kings and Tuesday's home game against the Orlando Magic.

Lakers spokesman John Black said he hadn't spoken to Bryant since learning of the NBA's decision Sunday morning.

''I'm sure he won't contest the suspension,'' Black said.

The fight took place near center court, several seconds after Bryant attempted a 3-pointer over Miller in the game's closing seconds.

Miller appeared to be walking toward Bryant after the game, apparently trash-talking, when Bryant suddenly threw a punch. The melee spilled over onto the scorers' table before order was restored.

After the game, Bryant issued a statement through the team, saying, ''If somebody comes at me, I'm going to defend myself.''

Thomas said words apparently were exchanged.

''I saw Kobe take a swing,'' he said. ''Before I knew it, everyone was trying to grab each other and hold each other and make peace. I don't know what they were saying or what it was about.''

The suspension hurt Indiana's chances against Sacramento, the NBA's best home team. Last season, Miller scored 18 points as the Pacers overcame Chris Webber's 51 points and 26 rebounds for a 93-91 overtime victory over the Kings at Arco Arena.



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