David Stern retirement: Did commissioner actually do Pacers a favor with post-brawl penalties?

Mike Young

As we bid farewell to the NBA commissioner after 30 years on the job, what will David Stern be remembered for with regard to the Pacers?

NBA commissioner David Stern doesn't receive a warm welcome from fans on the rare occasions that he shows up in Indiana. Under his NBA leadership, there's always been a feeling that the league, and thus Stern don't care about the small market teams.

Complaints of rigged draft lotteries, four-point plays for the Knicks, scheduling inconveniences and national television snubs all funnel back to the man in charge. Fair or not, the narrative is that the Pacers try to thrive despite the obstacles Stern and his minions may put in the way.

Of course, the most high-profile act by David Stern with regard to the Pacers, was his handling of the Palace brawl which went a long way to breaking up a title contender and at the time, arguably the most talented team in the league.

Stern sent Ron Artest home for the season, suspended Stephen Jackson 30 games, Jermaine O'Neal 15 games while giving Britton Johnsen's fledgling NBA career one last gasp of air. That group would never be the same.

The frustrating part of Stern's rulings on the matter, wasn't so much the heavy-handed suspensions for the Pacers, but how little responsibility he laid on the league and the Detroit Pistons organization for the environment in Detroit that night which eventually forced Jamal Tinsley to fight his way off the court with a dustpan.

But would the Pacers be where they are today if Stern didn't fast-track the destruction of that talented mid-2000's team?

Let's face it. As close as that team came to making the Finals, they were flawed and likely never able to get it together. It showed up a year earlier with Ron Artest's head-shaking, flagrant foul at a critical time in what would be an elimination game for the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals at the Palace.

The Pacers would never be able to rely on Artest and Jackson on the court. Nor could they rely on Jamal Tinsley and Jermaine O'Neal to show up and be ready to play, or even physically show up some nights. Those were the four best players on that team and all of them proved unreliable in their own quirky ways.

So what Stern started with his monster suspensions, led to a painful rebuild for the Pacers which now leaves Indiana with one of the best teams in the NBA. It took a ton of patience, but sometimes things end up working out for the best in the long run.

Please share your thoughts on the departing Commish in the comments.

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