Sunday, November 21, 2004
Pistons resume play at home with increased security
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit guard Lindsey Hunter took
pictures with fans while two armed police officers stood just a few
Things were clearly different at The Palace, and it might be a
long time before everything returns to normal at the site of one of
the worst brawls in U.S. sports history.
The defending NBA champion Pistons beat the Charlotte Bobcats
117-116 in double overtime Sunday night -- on Tayshaun Prince's dunk
with 16.5 seconds left -- but few asked about the game just two days
after the melee with Indiana that spilled into the stands and onto
"I ain't answering anything about that suspension stuff,
nothing about the fight," Detroit's Rasheed Wallace said before
hearing a question.
Even though Wallace and the Pistons don't like it, the nation
has its eyes on the security issues at their NBA home.
For Detroit's game against the Bobcats -- its first outing since
the fracas -- the team doubled the number of armed police to about
20 in the arena and increased other arena security personnel by
about 25 percent.
When both the Pistons and Bobcats went to the locker room and
returned to the court, they were escorted by police -- one officer
in front of each team, and one behind.
Unarmed personnel in blue and red shirts were sprinkled
throughout the arena in suburban Detroit. Those assigned to stand
near the court turned their back on the game to watch the fans in
Pistons CEO Tom Wilson said he hoped the franchise sent a
message about how serious it was about preventing safety problems
in the future.
"That's why we ratcheted up our security," Wilson said. "If
you were sitting at home or you were here watching what happened
the other night, you might have thought, `Can I take my wife there?
Can I take my kids there? Is that a safe environment?"
It wasn't on Friday when an on-court scuffle between Indiana's
Ron Artest and Ben Wallace of the Pistons led to Artest charging
into the stands after a beverage-filled cup was thrown on him by a
"I think we want to show the security, and reinforce that this
is the safest place to go to and that what you saw was a horrible
aberration that probably would've only happened with that player in
the league," Wilson said. "It was like the perfect storm."
The NBA came down hard on those involved in the mayhem Sunday
Artest was suspended for the rest of the season. Overall, nine
players from the teams were banned for more than 140 games,
including Ben Wallace, who will be out for six games.
The Pistons plan to add a protective covering over the tunnels
leading to the locker rooms after the Pacers were showered with
beer, popcorn and even a chair as they tried to get off the court.
But they don't want to line the court with police and security
personnel or a physical barrier.
"I think you've got to be careful and not overact to undo an
excellent relationship between fans and players by putting up
walls," Wilson said.
Even before Friday's melee, fans were subject to random searches
at Detroit's home games and all members of the media are searched
by hand-held wands and their bags are checked and tagged.
Auburn Hills Deputy Chief Jim Mynsberge said investigators are
reviewing film of the 5-minute fracas using the cameras of various
media outlets and are interviewing witnesses and players. After the
police investigation is complete, Mynsberge said the Oakland County
Prosecutors Office will determine if charges will be filed and that
could take weeks.
Nine people were treated for injuries, some of which might lead
Wilson said there's a good chance that tickets would be revoked
from any season-ticket holder who was involved in the fight.
Don White, 42, of Auburn Hills and his 10-year-old son sat in
the section where Artest and teammate Stephen Jackson fought with
fans two days earlier.
"I don't really see more security," White said. "I just see
more media attention."
Print and broadcast outlets from all over the country covered
Sunday night's game, and some planned on filing more reports
"With the playoff mob of media that we have here, you would
think it's the Finals," Hunter said. "I'm already away from
(Friday night). I'm not really thinking about it as much. I think
everybody else is more than we are."