Bullets team captain Wes Unseld said yesterday the threat of increased penalties for violence in National Basketball Association games would not end "the flagrant stuff."
"I don't see how stiffer rules will stop it," said Unseld, whose club meets the Denver Nuggets at Capital Centre tonight. "Once a fight breaks out, it's an emotional thing and guys aren't going to think about a fine or suspension right away."
Unseld was talking in reaction to a memorandum NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien has sent to league owner, general managers and coaches. It says that violence will no longer be tolerated and that fines and suspensions will be increased to stop it.
Unseld said that such curbs have always been in the NBA in some form, adding, "There isn't near as much fighting as there used to be."
During the past several weeks there has been what O'Brien called "a disturbing increase" in the number of flagrant fouls and punching in league games.
A bout between Mike Bantom of the New York Nets and Marvin Barnes of the Detroit Pistons Friday was the lastest.
Other incidents of fighting which have caused concern to the league office have involved Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers and Tom Burleson of the Seattle Sonics; Lonnie Shelton of the New York Knicks and Swen Nater of Milwaukee; Kevin Porter of Detroit and Jack Marin of Chicago; Porter and Mel Bennett of Indiana, and Detroit's Bob Lanier and Jim Eakins of Kansas City.
In his memorandum, O'Brien said that any player who without provocation participates in fighting or commits a flagrant foul, will be dealt with sternly by the commissioner. Also any player reported by an official to have left the vicinity of his bench during an alternation will be fined $150 and those involved in secondary fights and repeaters will be subject to stiffer fines.
This is to curb the "peacemakers," players who come off the bench to supposedly restore peace and often end up taking part in the fight. The memo said peacemaking is up to the officials and coaches.
The memorandum also said that any player or coach guilty of intentional contact with an official will be suspended for one game and a fine or a longer period of suspension will result if the circumstances dictate. Fines and suspensions will also be levied against players who cause trouble after they have been ejected from a game.
Bullet coach Dick Motta said the memorandum "doesn't really affect us. We aren't that kind of a team. We aren't basically looking for much trouble, but you have to be ready."
The closest the Bullets have come to being involved in a fight this season took place at the Capital Centre against Detroit when the Bullets' Leonard Gray and Detroit's Chris Ford squared off. No punches were thrown.
Bob Lanier grabbed Gray and as Gray tried to free himself, referee Richie Powers said he threw a punch and ejected Gray. Gray said afterwards that he didn't throw a punch and was just trying to get away from Lanier.
Motta said he didn't think there was much more roughness this year than in the past, but added "there are a lot of rookies and the four new ABA teams and a lot of people are trying to establish superiority."