We realize that this topic of the Suns suspensions has been repeatedly beaten into the ground, but this was just a bit to juicy to pass up. While Stern and Jackson have consistently said that the suspensions were a black and white issue, apparently they aren't - and Jackson even made this clear on a Wednesday radio show before the game.
Let's look at the NBA rule again quickly:
"During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $35,000. The suspensions will commence prior to the start of their next game."
The problem of course is what constitutes "the immediate vicinity" since there is not much disagreement on what constitutes an altercation. Stern and Jackson have always maintained that if players go onto the court, they're outside the immediate vicinity. Problem is that isn't written in the actual rules, which means teams could openly challenge this if they decided to. If anyone should have been aware of the rule's lack of clarity it's Stern, who is himself a former lawyer.
When Jackson was pressed on the radio to more clearly define what the immediate vicinity was, the assumption was he'd say something definitive like "the bench." But as Kelly's E-Tavern passed along to us, that didn't happen. Instead, Jackson had a bizarre gray area for what constituted "the immediate vicinity."
We'll let the E-Tavern explain:
When asked what "immediate vicinity" meant, (Jackson) said, "Well, 20 to 25 feet is not the 'immediate vicinity.'" He then went on to say that one foot away from the bench would be the "immediate vicinity." This means that "immediate vicinity" is somewhere between 1 and 25 feet from your seat on the bench. That is anything but a clear rule.
Gotta agree with E-Tavern here. If you go strictly by the rule book here, there's a great deal of interpretation and leeway that can go on since there's no definition of what actually constitutes the immediate vicinity. Even weirder is that Jackson's take is actually more rational than Stern's "if you go on the court, you get suspended" dictum. This is because it's totally possible to still be in the immediate vicinity of the bench even if you're on the court. Imagine a player an inch over the out of bounds line. He could easily and rationally still be considered within the immediate vicinity of the bench under the NBA's current rules. And this happens all the time, so there's a precedent to say a player just over the out of bounds line is still in the immediate vicinity of the bench.
So that leaves us with Jackson's much more logical, but much more wide open interpretation of the rule. While Stoudemire went at least 20 feet, Diaw certainly didn't.
If you want to get real nitty-gritty and technical here, at most the NBA should have suspended Amare and that's it. Diaw doesn't fall into any definable category offered by the official NBA rules or Stu Jackson, and Stern's insistence that stepping onto the court constitutes being outside the immediate vicinity can be easily challenged on completely rational grounds. Therefore, any team that's ever had this stupid rule imposed on them could potentially say they were cheated, since the definition of the immediate vicinity is entirely ambiguous.
If Stern and Stu are giving such a harsh penalty for guys leaving "the immediate vicinity", then they might want to insert what the hell "the immediate vicinity" is into the rule book, rather than leaving what appears to be a giant loophole open to someone ultimately brave enough to seriously fight a suspension.