New York Knicks forward Antonio Davis knew he risked being suspended for leaving his team's bench in Chicago during Wednesday night's game against the Bulls because he believed he saw his wife being accosted by a fan at the United Center.
What he didn't know was that his case would be treated similarly to some members of the Indiana Pacers who followed Ron Artest into the stands and the court at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the infamous brawl with the Detroit Pistons and their fans in November 2004.
While accepting Davis' reason for leaving the bench, the NBA made it clear that its zero-tolerance policy for players breaking that rule was still in affect in the aftermath of last year's melee that began when Artest went into the stands after a beer was thrown at him following a brief altercation with Pistons center Ben Wallace.
"We have made it plain to our players and our fans that players may not enter the spectator stands, no matter the provocation, and that violations of this policy will be treated with the utmost seriousness," Stu Jackson, the league's senior vice president of basketball operations, said in a statement.
"We have concluded, however, that Antonio's actions were the result of his belief that [one of] his family members required his immediate assistance, and have taken those mitigating circumstances into account in setting the length of the suspension.'
Davis, a 12-year veteran and president of the NBA Players Association, began the suspension with last night's game against the Pistons in New York. In a statement after the game in Chicago, Davis said he was merely trying to protect his wife, Kendra.
"I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man that I learned later to be intoxicated," said Davis. "I saw him touch her, and I know I should not have acted the way I did, but I would have felt terrible if I didn't react. There was no time to call security. It happened too quickly."
Michael Axelrod, the 22-year-old fan whom Davis thought was attacking his wife, disputed the player's version of the story. Axelrod said he wasn't drunk and that he never put his hands on Kendra Davis. In fact, Axelrod said, she hit him and later attacked another fan.
"It's a lie. When I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for the Bulls and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they're playing," said Axelrod, the son of a prominent Democratic political consultant in Chicago. "I don't feel comfortable if players are allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it's necessary."
Jay Paul Deratany, an attorney for Axelrod, said he plans to file a battery suit against Kendra Davis and sue Antonio Davis for slander for a total of $1 million.
Bobcats -- Forward Sean May had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee yesterday, likely bringing his rookie season to an end.
Nets -- Backup guard Jeff McInnis underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage from his left knee. There is no timetable for his return.
On the court
Pistons 105, Knicks 79 -- Richard Hamilton scored 26 points and Rasheed Wallace 23 to lead visiting Detroit to the rout of New York, which was led by Eddy Curry's 26.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.