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Heat’s Butler, Jovic, Bryant suspended by NBA for Friday altercation in New Orleans

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The NBA on Sunday issued suspensions to the Heat’s Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jovic and Thomas Bryant for their roles in the team’s melee with the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night at Smoothie King Center.

Butler and Jovic each were suspended for one game, with Bryant suspended for three.

All three will miss Monday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center, with Bryant also to miss the additional two games remaining on this four-game trip, on Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers and on Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.

The rulings resulted from what initially began as a benign foul from Heat forward Kevin Love against Pelicans forward Zion Williamson early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 106-95 victory.

In the immediate wake of that incident that escalated into several skirmishes, Butler and Bryant and the Pelicans’ Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado all were assessed technical fouls and ejected.

The NBA’s security staff then conducted interviews and reviewed the video before Sunday’s sanctions were handed down.

In the case of Butler, who wound up putting Pelicans forward Naji Marshall in a chokehold, the sanction announced by Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice president, head of basketball operations, was “for instigating and engaging in an on-court altercation.” Marshall received the same sanction of a one-game suspension without pay.

Bryant and Alvarado, per the NBA, were suspended, “for leaving the bench area during an on-court altercation and fighting.”

Jovic received his one-game suspension, “for leaving the bench area and entering an on-court altercation.”

A key component of the NBA ruling was the video regarding those who left the bench, whether directly involved in the fracas or otherwise.

Per the NBA rule book: “During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be subject to suspension, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.”

Heat staff and security immediately attempted to control the bench as the fracas spilled over to an area near the middle of the scorers’ table at center court.

While other Heat players became entangled, the league’s ruling indicated that they had not significantly strayed from the bench.

Friday’s game in New Orleans had marked the return of Butler, who had missed the previous three games due to a death in the family. He had led the Heat in scoring at the time of his ejection. Monday’s absence will be Butler’s 19th of the season. Players who miss more than 17 are ineligible for postseason awards. Butler was second-team All-NBA last season.

Jovic has started the past four games, after having been held out of six of the previous seven. It is the second time Jovic has received such NBA sanction, also suspended one game last season for leaving the bench during a skirmish between Heat forward Caleb Martin and Toronto Raptors center Christian Koloko on Oct. 22, 2022.

Bryant was ejected without seeing action Friday, having been held the past eight games. His last action remains Jan. 31 against the Washington Wizards.

The suspensions for the Heat come with guards Terry Rozier (knee) and Josh Richardson (shoulder) dealing with injuries sustained prior to the Heat’s eight-day All-Star break that ended Friday, and with guard Tyler Herro dealing with a knee injury that sidelined him for the finish of Friday’s game.

The lost wages from the suspensions can be appealed, but not the suspensions themselves.

The New Orleans players cited were suspended from Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls.