The fact that anger purportedly was evoked as the result of a high-stakes, in-flight poker game? That is nothing more than NBA life at 35,000 feet.
"I've heard guys who have lost $30,000 on an hour plane trip," a former NBA player said. "It's amazing, $30,000 in an hour.
"You leave Chicago, you have $30,000. You arrive in Detroit, you don't."
In a lifestyle where the salaries are high, the stakes can be, well, sky high, when it comes to passing time en route through an 82-game, six-month journey.
For the league's part, it is a time-honored rite of cross-country passage.
"Athletes have been playing private card games on planes and trains for a hundred years, back to Babe Ruth," one NBA executive said.
The NBA currently does not have a league-wide policy on such games, with players left with plenty of free time, holding envelopes stuffed with $113 in per diem for each day of impending trips that can last 10 days or even longer.
"I stopped my guys from playing when I was in Detroit," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "It's the arguments and stuff over the money."
The problem is, NBA coaches have enough to handle, let alone what happens on the river and the turn.
"You get a guy who likes to gamble," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, "he can get on a plane and lose $10,000 and it's not a problem.
"The stakes aren't important, as long as everybody's losing what they can afford to lose."
Although gun culture flatly is prohibited by the NBA, card culture is practically fabric of the sport.
"It's been part of the culture," Heat president Pat Riley said. "We used to play poker games in the middle of the aisles on commercial airlines, with six guys on aisle seats throwing cards in the middle, with customers walking through the money.
"But, back then, they were fives and 10s. Now they're 100s and 20s."
But not gunplay.
This latest purported incident could reduce the stakes around the league, if only as a means to reduce tensions.
"It's all money, the IOUs and the ‘I'll do this’ and ‘I'll do that,’ " Gentry said. "That's where all the trouble comes in."
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