INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers activated point guard
Anthony Johnson from the injured list Tuesday, two weeks sooner
than expected, and he will immediately begin serving a five-game
suspension for his role in a brawl with Detroit fans.
Johnson was in street clothes Friday night when teammate Ron
Artest jumped into the stands to go after a fan he thought threw a
cup that hit him in the face.
That touched off a melee in which fans threw drinks, cups,
popcorn, a chair and other debris at the Pacers and exchanged
punches with some of the players.
Johnson called his penalty excessive.
"I never went into the stands; I never left the court area,"
he said. "People certainly can see what the conditions on the
floor were like. The chaos speaks for itself."
Johnson, yet to play in the regular season because of a broken
right hand, was initially expected to miss six to eight weeks. But
his return comes one month after he was hurt.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Johnson was activated early
because he was healthy enough to play, not just so he could start
serving the suspension.
"He was scheduled to play tonight," Carlisle said. "He saw
our doctor yesterday and this was the target date. I saw his X-ray.
I'm not a doctor, but his X-ray looked a lot better than
Carlisle was referring to Reggie Miller, who also has a broken
hand and has been lobbying Carlisle to bring him back early to
bolster a roster decimated by injuries and suspensions.
The Pacers also placed forward Jonathan Bender on the injured
list with a sore right knee.
Bender will miss at least five games, but Carlisle said he will
be out much longer to make sure he is fully healed before
"We're going to give this a six-week period to give him an
opportunity to rehab and recondition his body and his right knee,"
Carlisle said. "The way it was going was not working out. The
extremes were too high and too low. This is the best way to go."