Wednesday , Dec , 22 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Jermaine O’Neal has suspension reduced

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal had his
suspension reduced to 15 games Wednesday by an arbitrator. O’Neal was involved
in a brawl with fans during a game against Detroit in Auburn Hills on November
19 and was suspended for 25 games by the National Basketball Association.

Ironically, if the ruling is recognized by the NBA, O’Neal would be eligible
to return on Saturday when the Pacers host the Pistons in the first matchup
since the incident.

The arbitrator, however, upheld the league’s suspensions of Ron Artest and two
other Indiana players. Artest, who received the most severe penalty, was
suspended the remainder of the season.

The league did not participate in the arbitration hearing.

The brawl started late in a seemingly calm game with Indiana in front by 15
points. Detroit’s Ben Wallace was fouled by Artest and the Pistons center took
exception to what he deemed a hard foul and gave Artest a two-handed push to
the face.

After that, the confrontation continued by the scorers’ table as players came
off both benches. The Detroit fans then lost all control and began throwing
cups filled with liquid and ice at Artest, who was laying on top of the
scorer’s table. Artest was hit in the head with a flying cup and immediately
raced into the stands where he started punching whom he thought was the
culprit.

Indiana’s Stephen Jackson followed into the crowd, along with several Pacer
players, and started swinging away at the unruly fans.

O’Neal was also involved in a fight with a fan on his way to the locker room.

After security tried to get the players out of the crowd, the game was called
with 45 seconds remaining. However, the fighting was not over as Detroit fans
continued to pelt the Pacers as the players were being escorted into the
locker room. The players and coaches were finally able to make it into the
tunnel, but not before all tempers were lost.

Five members of the Pacers and several Detroit fans were criminally charged.
O’Neal was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery, while
Artest, David Harrison, Anthony Johnson and Jackson were all charged with one
count of assault and battery.

IND