Paul George stepped over the sideline during a brief scuffle in Game 6, raising speculation that he would be suspended for leaving the bench. But the NBA did not suspend George, and Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations, said the decision “wasn’t even a close call.” Bleacher Report expalins:
The altercation in this case was a brief scuffle between the Pacers’ George Hill and the Hawks’ Mike Scott, with 19 seconds left in the first half of Thursday’s game. As those two shoved and jawed, George and Rasual Butler each stepped away from the bench and onto the court. George was corralled by an assistant coach before he even reached the three-point line. Butler got slightly over the three-point line before he was pushed back.
In Thorn’s view, neither one violated the rule.
“People just misunderstand (the rule),” Thorn told Bleacher Report. “It’s the ‘vicinity of the bench.’ It’s not that if your foot is on the line or one step over the line. … You’ve got to use some common sense, too.”
What constitutes “vicinity of the bench?” That, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. Some fans and commentators contend George left the bench’s vicinity when he walked onto the court. Thorn said taking a step or two does not constitute leaving the vicinity, or merit a suspension.
“When I looked at this today, I’m thinking, ‘What are people talking about?’” Thorn said. He added, “The rule is that you stay in the vicinity of the bench. If a guy takes one step onto the court, you’re not suspending guys for that.”
Butler came a little further out than George, but Thorn said Butler was also within the bounds of the rule.