NEW YORK — It was a WNBA smackdown Thursday, when the league suspended Detroit Shock assistant coach Rick Mahorn and 10 players for their roles in a skirmish with the Los Angeles Sparks earlier this week.
Shock forward Plenette Pierson was suspended Thursday for four games, the harshest penalty, for initiating and escalating the altercation.
Mahorn was suspended for two games, as were Shannon Bobbitt and Murriel Page of the Sparks, for the incident at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
"As a team, we're incensed that Rick Mahorn was suspended," Detroit coach Bill Laimbeer said in a telephone interview from Houston, where the Shock were scheduled to play the Comets. "He was trying to be a peacemaker and now he's being thrown under the bus."
Players suspended for one game included Detroit's Kara Braxton, Tasha Humphrey, Elaine Powell and Sheri Sam, along with Los Angeles' Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
"The WNBA and its players represent all that is good about sports: passion, hard work and sacrifice," WNBA president Donna Orender said in a statement released by the league. "On a nightly basis our players display extraordinary skill, athleticism and competitive fire. The events Tuesday, however, were inexcusable and in no way indicative of what the league stands for. We hold our players to a very high standard and these suspensions should serve notice that the behavior exhibited at the end of Tuesday's game will not be tolerated."
Pam Wheeler, director of operations for the WNBA players' union, said officials are in the process of interviewing players affected by the fines and suspensions while reviewing video of the end of the game.
"A determination of any appeals or grievances will be made shortly," Wheeler said in a statement.
The melee at The Palace in suburban Detroit — where the infamous brawl between the Pistons, Indiana Pacers and fans was in 2004 — broke out with 4.6 seconds left in a game won by the Sparks.
Parker and Pierson got tangled up and fell to the court. Deanna Nolan tackled Parker and Mahorn appeared to push Leslie to the court. Milton-Jones responded by punching Mahorn in the back.
The fracas started moments after Parker and Detroit's Cheryl Ford had to be separated after Ford fouled Parker. After Ford tried to restrain Pierson, her right knee buckled and she left the floor in a wheelchair and will miss the rest of the season and playoffs due to a torn knee ligament.
To allow the Shock and Sparks to have at least eight players in uniform, the players will have their suspensions staggered and follow alphabetical order.