Rookie center Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks was fined $1,500 yesterday by the National Basketball Association as a result of his fight with Indiana's Steve Stipanovich in an exhibition game last weekend.

Ewing was fined $1,250 for instigating the fight with Stipanovich Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, according to Scotty Stirling, NBA vice president of operations, who reviewed game films and levied the fines.

Stipanovich was fined $750 for escalating the fight. Both he and Ewing also were fined an automatic $250 each for being ejected.

Neither Ewing, who earlier said the fight was not his fault, nor Stipanovich was available for comment yesterday.

Also, 18 other NBA players were fined a total of $10,250 for their parts in fights in two separate games last weekend, including nine other members of the Knicks and six members of the Boston Celtics. The Knicks involved were all fined for their part in the incident involving the Pacers. The Celtics all were involved in a melee with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ewing, the top pick in the NBA draft last spring, was known for his intense, aggressive play at Georgetown. The 7-footer has been involved in four incidents in six exhibition games.

In the Knicks' first game, Oct. 4 against the Bullets, he had a series of elbow exchanges with Tony Costner; on Oct. 6 he was ejected from a game against the Atlanta Hawks after receiving two technical fouls; on Oct. 10, he had a fight with Buck Williams of the New Jersey Nets, and finally, he was involved in the fight with Stipanovich.

Ewing, interviewed Sunday by CBS Television, said the latest incident was unprovoked on his part. "Stipanovich was trying to block me out. I was trying to go for the offensive rebound," Ewing said. "We were banging, which is part of the game. And he just came out and grabbed me, flung me to the ground and bent my elbow back. Naturally, I was angry. I'm blamed for everything that happens. I guess that's life."

Ewing suffered a bruised, hyperextended left elbow during the incident and missed the Knicks' final exhibition game. He is supposed to make his regular-season debut Saturday in a nationally televised game in New York against Philadelphia.

Ewing has said he won't change his aggressive style of play, nor will he be asked to by Knicks Coach Hubie Brown. However, some NBA coaches feel his style could cause further problems.

Although no Knicks official was available for comment last night, Brown told Newsday on Sunday, "On every team, there's a guy who's trying to establish that he is their team's leader physically. And the ultimate challenge is to hold your own against Patrick Ewing."

Brown told Newsday that picking fights with Ewing may be a tactic other teams use to get Ewing ejected.

"I think it's only natural that it happens," Brown said. "Everyone can make statements about what an individual should do until they are put in that situation and feel the frustrations that an individual like that goes through. Everyone is taunting, everyone is provoking. And when it happens, then Ewing is supposed to turn the other cheek all of the time. I find that pretty hard to believe."

Stirling and NBA Commissioner David Stern were unavailable for comment yesterday. But the quick action by the league and the announcement of so many fines, including those normally not made public for leaving the bench area, were seen as a message to players that fighting will not be tolerated. "We can't let it get out of hand," Stern said Monday.

In addition to Ewing, nine other Knicks were fined $500 each. Rory Sparrow was cited for "jumping into the confrontation," and the other eight, whom the NBA did not name, for leaving the bench area. Sources said those eight players were James Bailey, Trent Tucker, Edmund Sherod, Clinton Wheeler, Bob Thornton, Ken Bannister, Fred Cofield and Ernie Grunfeld.

The other fight last weekend involved the teams that played for the NBA championship last season. The two main participants in that brawl were power forward Maurice Lucas of the Lakers, who just joined the NBA champions, and center Robert Parish of the Celtics.

Lucas was fined $1,000, including $750 for instigating the fight and an automatic $250 for being ejected. Parrish was fined $750, including $500 for fighting and an automatic $250 for being ejected.

Five other Celtics were fined. Dennis Johnson gave up $500 for entering the scuffle; Sly Williams $1,000, including $250 for cursing an official, an automatic $250 for being ejected and $500 for leaving the bench; and Greg Kite, Bill Walton and Rick Carlisle $500 each for leaving the bench.

In addition to Lucas, Johnson and Michael Cooper were fined $500 each for leaving the bench area.