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Davis did the right thing

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Antonio Davis did what any husband would do after seeing his wife involved in a spat with a man in the stands at the United Center.

Davis bounded over the scorer's table, climbed about 10 rows up the stands and placed his 6-foot-9 form between the man and his wife, if only to defuse a snit that was possibly as much the fault of his wife as the man, depending of which version you accept.

His wife is said to be something of a diva, and Davis, regarded as a high-character person, no doubt acted with this knowledge in mind.

He did not behave in an unhinged manner. He was not looking for a fight. He was looking to protect his wife, either from the man or herself.

And you defend your family with strangers, no matter if a family member is at fault.

The potentially volatile scene resulted in a predictably swift response from the arena's security force, and the only injury was to the wallet belonging to Davis after he received a five-game suspension without pay from the NBA yesterday.

The suspension, expected though it was, is as many as three games too many, for no man, not even David Stern himself, would not come to the aid of his wife if she were involved in a dispute with another man.

The NBA is rarely confronted with a thorny ethical dilemma, of when a player being right is wrong.

The NBA cannot have players bounding into the stands, no matter how valid the reason may be.

The NBA could not hand Davis a get-out-of-a-suspension card in sympathy. The NBA could judge the chivalrous motivations of Davis, and did. But the NBA could not give him a pass because of what it would tell the rest of the players, which would be: You are allowed to go into the stands if you have family there and invoke the Davis precedent.

The suspension never was in doubt, just the length of it.

Davis did the right thing, did what any husband would have done, but he will have to suffer the consequences of it.

And the NBA will study anew what measures, if any, can be taken to make its venues as safe as possible.

In the end, though, the NBA will find what societies always have found since the dawn of time: No matter how many laws, rules and regulations are imposed, some people are just not going to follow them.

And that goes double for those fans who believe the price of a ticket entitles them to behave boorishly, even around a high-maintenance woman in the company of her children.

However often coaches and players pay homage to their hometown fans -- they are the greatest fans in the world, as always -- they also know the unspoken truth.

The anonymity of being in a large crowd only encourages certain fans to check their manners at the arena door, more so if they are having a few beers.

Understandably, the NBA remains ever sensitive to maintaining a certain decorum following the ugly brawl involving the Pistons, Pacers and fans in Auburn Hills, Mich., last season.

Davis hardly acted in the spirit of the players and fans gone wild at the Palace, as Knicks coach Larry Brown pointed out.

"Come on, that's his wife," Brown said. "That's entirely different. I was worried about Kendra. That's why he went into the stands. He saw her falling back."

Yet as Davis charged into the stands, the NBA undoubtedly gulped hard.

You almost could hear the NBA saying, "Uh-oh. Here we go again."

This time, though, the player going into the stands acted even-temperedly, even nobly.

Davis stood before the fan and allowed other parties to intervene.

And Davis would do it again, regardless of the financial cost, if he believed a female member of his family was in jeopardy.

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