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 Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "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 Thursday 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 Wednesday.
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 LA star Lisa Leslie to the court. Milton-Jones responded by punching Mahorn in the back.
Messages seeking comment were left on Mahorn's cell phone and for Sparks coach Michael Cooper. A message was left for Leslie through Sparks spokeswoman 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 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.
After Ford tried to restrain Pierson, her right knee buckled and she left the floor in a wheelchair. The team said the standout forward will miss the rest of the season and playoffs due to a torn knee ligament.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said he jumped up when he saw the highlights on TV in Las Vegas, where he is practicing with the U.S. Olympic team.
"Candace is going to be a target. She's an incredible player," Bryant said. "I think it's good for her that she didn't back down and I think it's good for her teammates to step in there."
Bryant added that one fight in the league's existence "is a hell of a track record."
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 a 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.