- J.A. Adande, NBA
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A woman who was described as "disoriented" walked onto the court while the Los Angeles Lakers were playing the Denver Nuggets in a playoff game Sunday night at the Pepsi Center and was quickly whisked away.
Although no one was harmed, the possibilities of what could have happened were on the minds of some players a day later.
"You'd hate to see a situation in basketball that took place like Monica Seles," said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, referring to the 1993 incident in which Seles, the No. 1-ranked women's tennis player in the world at the time, was stabbed in the back during a break in a match in Hamburg, Germany.
In Denver Sunday night, the woman was carrying a T-shirt, not a knife. With a little more than a minute remaining in the second quarter, as Nuggets guard Ty Lawson brought the ball upcourt against the defense of Lakers guard Ramon Sessions, the woman stepped onto the court at the baseline entry point and walked down the sideline.
While an usher followed her to see if she had courtside tickets she suddenly veered onto the court, in the vicinity of Lawson and teammate Arron Afflalo, and Sessions and Bryant.
The usher grabbed her and she was quickly brought off the court and into the custody of the Denver Police Department. Police identified the woman as Savannah McMillan-Christmas, age 20. She was cited for trespassing and released to the custody of her mother. A court date is set for June 5.
"She was disoriented," said Kurt Schwartzkopf, the Nuggets' chief marketing officer. "She did not appear to be intoxicated."
According to one person seated near the court the woman said, "Where's Kenyon?" an apparent reference to former Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. A Denver police spokesman said there was no indication she had stalked Martin in the past.
Stu Jackson, the NBA's vice president of basketball operations, was at the game and saw the incident. Top NBA officials regularly visit arenas around the league during the playoffs.
"I thought they handled it fairly well in terms of just getting to her as quickly as they could," Jackson said. "And that's what they're instructed to do, to try to remove a fan that's in danger to herself or himself or the players."
"When you have basketball and you're in such close proximity to the game, it's somewhat unavoidable. If somebody wanders out there or wants to walk out there, it's a difficult incident to prohibit."
Jackson said the NBA will review the event and its procedures.
"Everything is always under review at our place," Jackson said. "We'll look at it and see if there's anything we could have done."
Bryant, who is one of the most security-conscious players in the league and is frequently flanked by protectors while walking through arenas, said he feels safe on the court.
"You've just got to be observant," Bryant said. "I saw her the whole time. I'm keeping my eyes open for myself, and also for Afflalo, everybody that's on the court. Just kind of observing and seeing what's going on.
"You don't intentionally look for it, but you stay in the moment. So whatever happens in front of you, that's what you see. I saw her coming. I had my eye on it."
Kobe Bryant among players glad situation with female fan during Lakers-Nuggets game was handled quickly and safely.