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Artest, O'Neal, Jackson, Wallace on hook news services

NEW YORK --Indiana's Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson, and Detroit's
Ben Wallace were suspended indefinitely by the NBA on Saturday for taking part in
one of the ugliest brawls in U.S. sports history, a fight with fans that
commissioner David Stern called "shocking, repulsive and inexcusable."

League officials and police were examining videotapes of Friday night's melee and
interviewing witnesses. The NBA issued a statement saying it was reviewing rules and
security procedures "so that fans can continue to attend our games unthreatened by
events such as the ones that occurred last night."

Artest, O'Neal and Jackson -- who all threw punches at spectators in the stands or
on the court at the end of the nationally televised Pacers-Pistons game -- were to
begin serving their suspensions Saturday night, when Indiana hosted Orlando.

Due to the suspensions, the Pacers likely will have to put injured players in
uniform in order to meet the league's rule of dressing at least eight players,'s Marc Stein reports.

Indianapolis had dressed only 10 players for the pistions game, and only has seven
healthy players available to face the Magic on Saturday. Reggie Miller, Jeff Foster
and Anthony Johnson are on the injured list.

The Pacers will likely have to put Scot Pollard and/or Jonathan Bender in uniform
against Orlando, even though they are both hurt and won't play, anticipates Stein.

Wallace's suspension will start at home Sunday night against Charlotte, the next
game for the reigning NBA champion Pistons.

The exact length of the four players' bans could be announced as early as Sunday.

"I didn't start it. I just played the game," Wallace said Saturday before learning
of his suspension. "The league is going to do whatever they feel needs to be done,
and I don't have no problems with that."

Pacers players did not immediately comment Saturday, but team CEO Donnie Walsh
issued a statement saying, "responsibility for Friday night's action can be shared
by many."

Pistons spokesman Tom Wilson said the team plans to use "playoff-level security"
starting with Sunday's game, doubling the number of armed police and increasing
other arena security personnel by about 25 percent.

The brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and Jackson bolting into the stands
near center court and throwing punches at fans after debris was tossed at the

Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by Artest and O'Neal.

"We'll put it all together, take it to the Oakland County prosecutor's office and
have them review it and they'll decide if there are any charges," Auburn Hills
Deputy Chief Jim Mynsberge said.

"The whole fiasco could take weeks to decide," Oakland County Prosecutor David
Gorcyca said.

The next game between Indiana and Detroit is Dec. 25 at Indianapolis. The rivals,
who met in the Eastern Conference finals last season, won't play each other in
Auburn Hills, Mich., again until March 25.

The melee was the talk of the league Saturday. Violence at NBA arenas is rare, even
among the few franchises -- such as Detroit -- that draw a more rough-and-tumble
crowd to courtside seats than in other cities.

"I was in total shock. Unbelievable," said Mike Montgomery, who oversees security at
Staples Center in Los Angeles. "You never expect something like that to happen. You
prepare and train for an incident like that, but you never expect it."

Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove to Artest after
Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with 45.9 seconds remaining. After the
fight ended, the referees called off the remainder of the game. Pacers players were
pelted with drinks, popcorn and other debris as they rushed to the locker room.

"This demonstrates why our players must not enter the stands, whatever the
provocation or poisonous behavior of people attending the games," Stern said in his
statement. "Our investigation is ongoing, and I expect it to be completed by
tomorrow evening."

The most recent example of an NBA player going into the stands and punching a fan
came in February 1995, when Vernon Maxwell of the Houston Rockets pummeled a
spectator in Portland. The league suspended him for 10 games and fined him $20,000.

Among the harshest non-drug-related penalties in NBA history was a one-year
suspension of Latrell Sprewell -- later reduced to 68 games -- for choking Golden
State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice.

Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers drew a 60-day (26-game) suspension in
1977 for a punch that broke the jaw of the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during
a game, while Dennis Rodman was suspended 11 games for kicking a courtside cameraman
in the groin and six games for head-butting a referee.

Artest was benched for two games this month for asking Pacers coach Rick Carlisle
for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting a rap album.

Artest was suspended twice by the NBA last season, once for leaving the bench during
a fracas at a Pacers-Celtics playoff game; the other for elbowing Portland's Derek
Anderson. During the 2002-03 season, Artest was suspended five times by the NBA and
once by the Pacers for a total of 12 games.

Artest also once grabbed a television camera and smashed it to the ground after a
loss to the Knicks two years ago.

"People are putting all the burden on Artest, and I don't think that's fair,"
Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "He's an easy target because of all the things
he's been through. But some fans have gotten to a point where they think they can do
or say anything."

Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said: "Do I think the fans should share some of the
blame? Yeah. But as professionals, as NBA players, you cannot go into the stands."

The initial skirmish wasn't all that bad, with Artest retreating to the scorer's
table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him reeling backward.

But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed into the stands, throwing punches
as he climbed over seats.

"He was on top of me, pummeling me," fan Mike Ryan of Clarkston said. "He asked me,
'Did you do it? I said, 'No, man. No!"'

Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. At one point, a
chair was tossed into the fray.

Security personnel and ushers tried to break it up. Former Pistons player Rick
Mahorn, who was seated courtside as a Detroit radio analyst, also stepped in.

"After the initial encounter on the court, the players were under control. As fans
quickly became involved, the situation escalated," Walsh said. "More specifically,
the safety of everyone present was compromised, and that is of great concern for

Two of the nine people treated for injuries were taken to a hospital, police said.
Detectives planned to collect and analyze video footage, interview witnesses and
examine medical records.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.