PHOENIX -- There was no choice, NBA operations chief Rod Thorn said yesterday after suspending league scoring leader Michael Jordan for last night's Chicago Bulls game against Phoenix. The Suns won, 126-114.
"This is a lock," Thorn said. "There was intentional physical contact and that's rule book: automatic suspension."
According to league rules, a suspension must be served in the game that follows the incident that caused it.
Jordan's suspension is without pay. He loses one-82nd of his $3.25 million salary, or $39,634.15. In addition, he was fined $5,000. Thorn said suspensions may not be appealed but fines may.
Not all agreed with the ruling by Thorn, who once worked in the Bulls organization. Many who saw a replay of the final seconds of the Bulls' triple-overtime loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday failed to see Jordan intentionally bump referee Tommie Wood.
Jordan vehemently argued Wood's foul call against him as Jeff Malone drove to the basket with 0.5 of a second remaining in the third extra period and the score tied. Jordan was ejected.
The Bulls were in the penalty, so Malone got two free throws for the personal and another for the technical. He made all three for the Jazz's winning margin.
Thorn's call was surprising considering that Jake O'Donnell, chief of the crew officiating the game, said afterward that Jordan got the boot for using foul language, not for bumping.
"There was no doubt in my mind there was intentional physical contact when I reviewed the tape," Thorn said. "Last week, we suspended two people for physical contact [Houston Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell, one game and $7,500, for bumping referee Jack Nies; and New Jersey Nets assistant coach Tom Newell, one game and $2,000, for bumping referee Steve Javie]. If we let Michael Jordan go for doing the same thing, then we have no rules."
This is the first time Jordan has been suspended, having started 235 straight games. Thorn said the league acts as quickly as possible to punish rules violators.