By Larry Fine
Monday, December 18, 2006; 2:08 PM
NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony was suspended for 15 games, drawing the heaviest punishment among seven players banned on Monday after a brawl between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
The melee at Madison Square Garden erupted with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter when Knicks guard Mardy Collins committed a hard foul on Denver's J.R. Smith on a drive to the basket.
Anthony, a Denver forward averaging a league-best 31.6 points per game, received his 15-game ban for shoving New York's Nate Robinson and punching Collins in the face.
All 10 players on court were ejected from the game in the worst fracas in the NBA since a 2004 incident in Detroit when Indiana Pacers players charged into the stands and fought fans.
Other suspensions for Saturday's incident included: Knicks guard Robinson 10 games; Nuggets guard Smith 10 games; Knicks guard Collins six games, and Knicks forward Jared Jeffries four games. New York center Jerome James and Denver forward Nene each drew a one-game suspension for leaving the bench.
The Knicks and Nuggets organizations have each been fined $500,000, NBA Commissioner David Stern said.
"The NBA and its players represent a game of extraordinary skill, athleticism and grace, and, for good or bad, set an example for the entire basketball world, on and off the court," Stern said in conference call announcing the suspensions.
"While we have worked diligently to eliminate fighting from our game, there are failures such as Saturday night at Madison Square Garden that demonstrate there is still more to be done.
"It is our obligation to take the strongest possible steps to avoid such failures in the future and to make a statement to all who follow the game of basketball that we understand our obligations and take them seriously."
In the 2004 incident, Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers was suspended for 73 games after charging into the stands when a drink was thrown at him. Fellow Pacers player Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25.
There had been speculation Stern might also discipline Knicks coach and team president Isiah Thomas.
Following the game, some Denver players said Thomas had warned Anthony not to go for any easy shots in the final moments of a game the Nuggets won handily 123-100.
Thomas told reporters he objected to Denver playing most of their regulars at the end despite holding an insurmountable lead in the game, suggesting the Nuggets were trying to run up the score to humiliate New York.
Denver coach George Karl is a close friend of Larry Brown, who was fired as Knicks coach at the end of last season and replaced by Thomas.
Asked whether he thought the coaches shared any blame for the incident and if he might contemplate further punishment, Stern said: "No, we have completed our fines and they're all set forth in this announcement.
"My finding was there was not adequate evidence upon which to make a determination."
(Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington)