The Clippers might have finally found a way to silence outspoken guard Ron Harper.
Harper was suspended without pay for tonight's game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Sports Arena for comments he made before Wednesday night's 103-99 loss to the Utah Jazz.
The suspension will cost Harper, who earns $4 million per season, $48,780.49.
The Clippers made the decision to suspend Harper for what they termed "behavior detrimental to the best interests of the team" after consulting with the NBA office. However, the National Basketball Players Assn. is likely to file a grievance, claiming that Harper's suspension is unreasonable.
Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the most that Harper could have been fined is $300. By suspending Harper, the Clippers are effectively fining him $48,780 to deter future disruptive comments.
Charles Grantham, executive director of the Players Assn., has taken the matter under advisement. Grantham said he would have to study the Clipper team rules before commenting.
Harper, who was benched for Tuesday night's 100-89 victory over the Lakers and fined $300 along with teammate Danny Manning for missing Monday's practice, compared playing for the Clippers to serving time in jail.
"I'm just doing my jail time," said Harper, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. "In about 65 or 70 more days, my time is up and I'll be out on GB, good behavior."
Asked how someone who earns $4 million a year could compare it to being incarcerated, Harper said: "It's still jail time. Jail time is jail time no matter how much you're getting, right? It's still jail time."
Harper, the Clippers' No. 2 scorer with an average of 19.4 points per game, missed six of seven shots and scored only four points in 20 minutes before being benched in the fourth quarter against the Jazz.
He declined to comment Thursday.
"Ron's actions leave us no choice," General Manager Elgin Baylor said in a statement released by the club. "We would be sending the wrong message to our fans, all our players and everyone in the organization if we elected to tolerate this type of behavior."
This isn't the first time Harper has criticized the Clippers.
After a disappointing loss earlier this season, Harper said in graphic terms that the Clippers stunk.
Harper issued an half-hearted apology the next day after meeting with Baylor.