The WNBA always seems to crave more attention.
Mission accomplished, albeit it without a dunk or fantastic play.
The Detroit Shock - and assistant coach Rick Mahorn - were involved in a skirmish with the Los Angeles Sparks, making the WNBA a hot topic on TV, sports-talk radio and blogs.
"A lot of people are paying attention to the WNBA right now that have probably never followed it," Shock guard Katie Smith said yesterday. "Is it the right kind of attention? No. But I don't think the publicity hurts. In hockey, people live for the fights.
"Who knows, maybe we'll meet in the WNBA finals and there will be even more interest."
Now the league is left to decide which of the participants will be punished and its decisions are expected today before Detroit plays at Houston and Los Angeles travels to face Connecticut.
"The WNBA is reviewing the incident in its entirety," WNBA spokesman Ron Howard said yesterday.
The melee at the Palace of Auburn Hills - also the site of the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers and fans in 2004 - broke out Tuesday night with 4.6 seconds left in a game won by the Sparks.
Detroit's Plenette Pierson and assistant coach Mahorn were ejected, along with Los Angeles players Candace Parker and DeLisha Milton-Jones.
Parker and Pierson got tangled up and fell to the court. Deanna Nolan tackled Parker and Mahorn appeared to push L.A. star Lisa Leslie to the court. Milton-Jones responded by punching Mahorn in the back.
A message seeking comment was left on Mahorn's cell phone and for Sparks coach Michael Cooper and Leslie via Sparks spokesperson Alayne Ingram.
"Rick Mahorn is getting the bad end of the deal," Smith said. "I'd bet all the money in the world on him that he didn't push her. Unfortunately, the people in charge of the game shouldn't have let it get to that point. Thankfully, nothing too crazy happened."
The fracas started moments after Parker and Detroit's Cheryl Ford had to be separated after Ford fouled Parker.
When order was restored, Parker, Pierson, Milton-Jones and Mahorn were ejected, and Nolan and Los Angeles' Shannon Bobbitt received technicals.
Leslie seemed to believe Mahorn intentionally pushed her.
"I don't even know why he was pushing me down," she said Tuesday night after an 84-81 win. "I wasn't swinging or hitting anybody. I was just going to go help my teammate up."
Mahorn insisted he was trying to protect the integrity of the game and the league.
"I would never push a woman," he said after the game.
Shock coach Bill Laimbeer - who teamed with Mahorn to form the core of the Pistons' "Bad Boys" clubs that won championships in 1989 and 1990 - and Los Angeles' Michael Cooper also came to Mahorn's defense.
"Rick Mahorn is known as a peacemaker, from even the brawl we had here with Indiana," Laimbeer said.
"He went out there to get people off the pile, and to get people to stop the confrontation. That's who he is, that's what he does."
Cooper said Mahorn was acting as a peacemaker.
"But he's just too big," he said.
WNBA president Donna Orender's dilemma will be to decide who will be suspended and for how long.
In 2005, the Shock's Elaine Powell was suspended five games for striking Washington's Coco Miller during a game. Although Powell has never had the stature of Parker or even Milton-Jones, the league hasn't been shy about suspending a star player. Phoenix's Diana Taurasi served a two-game ban last season for inappropriate conduct toward game officials after a loss to Detroit.
Shock forward Cheryl Ford will miss the rest of the WNBA regular season and playoffs after injuring her right knee.
The team said that Ford tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the knee after grabbing a rebound with a little more than two minutes remaining in Tuesday's home game against Los Angeles.
Ford later fell to the court while trying to restrain a teammate during a fracas between several players from both teams with seconds left in the game.
Ford had microfracture surgery on her left knee this past off season.
She has averaged 10.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and one steal in 24 games this season.