Article from Scott Agness who is in his 11th season as a beat writer covering the Indiana Pacers. Click here to read more of his work at FieldhouseFiles.com.
The NBA investigated a postgame incident that took place in the loading dock of the the FedExForum in Memphis as the Pacers were about to depart one week ago, back on Jan. 29.
A report on The Athletic published an hour before the Pacers hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers late Sunday afternoon.
It was reported that “acquaintances of Grizzlies star Ja Morant aggressively confronted members of the Pacers traveling party near the team’s bus in the loading area of FedExForum, and later someone in a slow-moving SUV — which Morant was riding in — trained a red laser on them.”
It was also reported that a Pacers security guard present at the time remarked “That’s 100 percent a gun.”
I’ve independently confirmed those details and that the risk felt was very real.
It was a scary moment for members of the Pacers traveling party, which generally is around 45 individuals and includes the players, coaching staff, health staff, as well as members of the front office, player relations, public relations and team broadcasters.
There are also multiple buses and they leave at different times.
“I wasn’t there when that incident happened,” head coach Rick Carlisle said on Sunday night following a 122-103 loss to the Cavs. “I was in the locker room. Someone called me and I was on the way, but I missed the whole thing. The NBA investigated it and from there, I think the thing’s over.”
The NBA issued the following statement:
“NBA Security and league investigators conducted an investigation interviewing numerous eyewitnesses and reviewing video surveillance following allegations made by the Indiana Pacers organization regarding a postgame incident on Jan. 29. While we substantiated that a postgame situation arose that was confrontational, based on interviews and other evidence gathered, we could not corroborate that any individual threatened others with a weapon.
“Certain individuals involved in the postgame situation and a related matter during the game that night have been subsequently banned from attending games in the arena. If additional information becomes available related to the postgame situation, the league office will conduct a further review.”
The related matter during the game, a 12-point loss for the Pacers, occurred in the third quarter. With 2:28 left, Grizzlies star Ja Morant exchanged words with Pacers guard Chris Duarte while Isaiah Jackson was at the foul line.
Then Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce and James Johnson were very clearly upset at something said across the court by Morant’s friend, Davonte Pack, who walked on the court and toward the Pacers’ bench.
As we’ve seen this season from Johnson, who has a black belt, he’s not backing down to anyone. And it was clearly troubling enough for him to be disturbed.
Pack was escorted away from his courtside seat and did not return.
Morant had a few things to say to rookie Andrew Nembhard as well.
“I don’t know what was going on over on the sideline over there, but that was a distraction that was, I don’t have the right word, I’ll say unfortunate and keep it as mild as possible,” Carlisle said after losing in Memphis. “But that kind of thing shouldn’t happen where somebody is over there saying things to our players. Fortunately, they got that person out of here.”
The Pacers were up 78-72, then outscored 40-22 over the final 14:28.
More from The Athletic’s report:
After the game, the Pacers players, coaches and support staff entered the loading area to board a team bus. About 30 to 40 yards away from the bus were two parked cars. Pack and four to five other men emerged from the cars, walked to within 30 feet of the Pacers group and began shouting at them.
According to the sources, the remarks directed at them by Pack and others included: “Come get some of this” and “you don’t know how we roll” and “I’ll show you what I got.” Some Pacers players and others yelled back at them, according to the two people present. Pacers, NBA and arena security got between the two groups.
The Pacers’ charter flight departed at 10:38 p.m. ET, about an hour later than scheduled, according to the flight log.
With Tyrese Haliburton sitting on stage beside Myles Turner after the Pacers’ loss on Sunday, Turner had this to say about what transpired exactly one week ago.
“Me and Tyrese, we actually weren’t present when things went down,” said Turner. “We kind of just heard stories so I can’t really speak to things I didn’t see with my own two eyes. I think things get blown out of proportion in reports and stuff like that just because for clickbait and that type of stuff. I personally can’t speak to what happen, but that’s what we have NBA security for and team security for.”
Each NBA team travels with at least several members of their own security. The size of the staff depends on the team’s unique situation.
The Pacers publish video of postgame interviews. However, both Carlisle’s and Turner’s responses were not included in Sunday’s postgame video.
Morant didn’t play in the Grizzlies game on Sunday due to right wrist soreness, but he tweeted the following — noting that his “brother,” referencing Pack, was banned from home games for a year.
This was undoubtedly a scary situation for members of the Pacers traveling party who were present. And fortunately nothing significant happened.
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