The NBA yesterday slapped the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone with the toughest penalty ever for a flagrant foul. But even that didn't calm Isiah Thomas' contempt for his attacker.
Malone was fined $10,000 and suspended for one game for elbowing Thomas in the left eye in the first quarter of the Detroit Pistons' 102-100 loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. Malone will miss tonight's game against Charlotte -- but Thomas missed last night's game against Denver because of the injury -- which required 40 stitches to close -- and might miss tomorrow's game against Charlotte.
The Pistons' Darrell Walker was fined $5,000 for leaving the bench and taking a swing at Malone. William Bedford, Mark Aguirre, Brad Sellers, Lance Blanks, Bob McCann and Charles Thomas were fined $500 apiece for leaving the bench.
Utah's Issac Austin, David Benoit, Mike Brown, Tyrone Corbin, Eric Murdock and Delaney Rudd also were fined $500 for leaving the bench.
NBA vice president of operations Rod Thorn called the incident "the worst foul he's seen" since the league instituted a new flagrant foul rule two seasons ago. Thorn said it was the first time the league had suspended a player for a non-fighting, game-related incident.
But Thomas didn't believe the penalty was severe enough. He sat dejectedly by his locker nearly 90 minutes before tip-off last night. Sunglasses and a hat tipped low over his forehead concealed the damage.
"It's the type of situation that makes you say, '[Forget] it, is it really worth playing?' " said Thomas, who returned from the hospital and played late in Saturday's game. "I could have died on that play. The doctor tells me my forehead is going to be numb for two months."
When asked if Malone had attempted to apologize, Thomas responded that Malone "was too chicken to apologize."
Malone declined to apologize for what he called "good, solid basketball."
"I don't play [dirty]," said Malone, considered a classic power forward at 6 feet 9 and 256 pounds. "I will not appeal. I will not challenge the league. I don't want to do or say anything that will put a damper on my career or the type of season we're having."
Malone stands to lose approximately $40,000, including the fine. He'll make $2.5 million this season on a six-year contract that averages $3.2 million.
Thomas, 6-1 and 185 pounds, had thought he could play against Denver, but left the Palace around an hour before tip-off. He's considered 50-50 for tomorrow's game against Charlotte.
Thomas was unable to practice yesterday morning. A team official said he resembled a boxer the night after a fight. His left eye was swollen shut.
Meanwhile, his teammates continued their contention that the blow was premeditated.
"It looks like it might have been premeditated," Pistons coach Chuck Daly said. "Frankly, he could have ended Isiah's career. He could experience long-range problems as a result of that hit. This was a life-threatening incident. It's a sad commentary."
According to NBA director of basketball operations Stu Jackson, the Pistons cannot petition the league to request an even harsher penalty for Malone. Jackson said commissioner David Stern's word was final.
Thomas again addressed whether the league wasn't harder on Malone because a Piston was the victim.
"I just don't think it's fair," he said. "We're definitely looked at differently than any other team in the league. If [Bill] Laimbeer made the play, they probably would have suspended him for the whole year."
Thorn defended the penalty.
"This was an extremely extensive penalty that we've rendered, and I believe it's just," Thorn said. "The man required 40 stitches. That should tell you how serious it was.
"If players still wish to commit those doggoned flagrant fouls after this, then we'll just make the penalty even tougher. Hopefully, after this they'll receive the message."