Ex-Lady Vol Parker at the center of 1st-ever WNBA basket(brawl)
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 6:11 pm
By: By VIN A. CHERWOO, AP Sports Writer
Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker are the only players to have dunked in a WNBA game.
On Tuesday night, they were involved in a skirmish — another occurrence more frequently connected with the men’s game — at, of all places, The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Parker was one of three players ejected, along with Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn, after the scuffle with 4.6 seconds left in the Los Angeles Sparks’ 84-81 victory over the Shock.
In case you missed the melee, which was late in a nationally televised game on ESPN2, it started moments after Parker and Detroit’s Cheryl Ford had to be separated after Ford fouled Parker.
On the next possession, Parker got tangled up with Detroit’s Plenette Pierson and fell to the ground. As Parker was getting up, Pierson hovered over the Sparks’ rookie, who pulled her to the ground.
Parker then was tackled by the Shock’s Deanna Nolan. Players and coaches from both teams joined in, and Mahorn — who said he simply was trying to separate players — pushed Leslie at one point and knocked her to the court. Los Angeles’ DeLisha Milton-Jones then pushed and punched Mahorn in the back.
“I don’t even know why was he pushing me down,” Leslie said. “I wasn’t swinging or hitting anybody. I was just going to go help my teammate up.”
When order was restored, Parker, Pierson, Milton-Jones and Mahorn were ejected, and Nolan and Los Angeles’ Shannon Bobbitt received technicals.
“To be honest, I don’t recall exactly what happened,” Parker said. “I’ll have to watch the tape.”
So will WNBA president Donna Orender, who could be issuing some suspensions.
In addition to the four ejected, WNBA rules stipulate that players who left the bench are subject to a minimum one-game suspension and a fine — much like NBA players.
Not only was this the site of the ugly Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004 that involved fans, Mahorn also was involved in that melee. He was then a Detroit broadcaster and went into the crowd to try to pull Indiana’s Ron Artest away from fans.
“I was trying to protect the whole game, the integrity of the game,” Mahorn said of Tuesday’s ejection. “The WNBA is very special to me … I would never push a woman. This game, I love this game too much.”
Shock coach Bill Laimbeer — who teamed with Mahorn to form the core of the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” clubs that won championships in 1989 and 1990 — and Los Angeles’ Michael Cooper both came to Mahorn’s defense.
“Rick Mahorn is known as a peacemaker, from even the brawl we had here with Indiana,” Laimbeer said. “He went out there to get people off the pile, and to get people to stop the confrontation. That’s who he is, that’s what he does.”
Added Cooper: “I think Rick was trying to play peacemaker, but he’s just too big. I was only trying to grab my players, and I didn’t see exactly what happened, but he apparently gently tried to push Lisa away.”
Ford sprained her right knee while trying to restrain Pierson, and left the floor in a wheelchair.
Orender’s dilemma will be to decide who will be suspended and for how long. In 2005, the Shock’s Elaine Powell was suspended five games for striking Washington’s Coco Miller during a game.
Brawls occur in the NBA — the New York Knicks and Miami Heat were involved in one during the 1997 playoffs — but this apparently was a first in the women’s pro game.
“I haven’t seen something like that, I don’t think, in my whole career. This is pretty rare,” said Detroit veteran guard Katie Smith, who will be teammates with Leslie, Parker and Milton-Jones at the Beijing Olympics.
Although the league, now in its 12th season, is still looking to broaden its fan base, this is hardly what anyone had in mind.
“This is not the way we want to represent ourselves and the WNBA,” Leslie said, “and for it to be a television game, obviously, it’ll probably make some highlights. And this is not the way we want to get attention.”
Freelance writer Dave Hogg in Auburn Hills, Mich., contributed to this report.