David Stern is a smart man who needs to get rid of a dumb rule. This rule might have cost two teams an NBA championship, so Stern should act before it rains a river of injustice on a third.
The "immediate vicinity of the bench" mandate is in place to prevent players from wandering onto the court and elevating a skirmish from Defcon 5 to Defcon 1. Of course, the spirit of the law makes all kinds of sense.
A league haunted by a couple of violent episodes from its past — the Malice at the Palace and the Kermit Washington/Rudy T punch — wants to ensure that basketball never subscribes to this primitive article of hockey's faith: Fighting is a part of the game.
Fine. But suspending any player that leaves his bench, regardless of circumstance, allows for the spirit of the rule to be trampled by the letter of it, making a mockery of what should be a fair and square athletic event.
Lamar Odom was suspended under Stern's ordinance after Portland's Rudy Fernandez was clipped from the sky by the Lakers' Trevor Ariza. Odom bodied up to Brandon Roy, who had gotten in Ariza's face, before Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis shoved Odom back to the bench.
So Odom will sit out Wednesday's game in Houston, and perhaps rightfully so. Though he didn't get physical, Odom did act in something of an agitated way.
I wouldn't have suspended him. I would've hit him with a fine and a warning that next time around I wouldn't be so kind.