Isaiah Stewart arrested for punching Drew Eubanks ahead of Phoenix Suns’ win

Pregame tensions escalated into a physical altercation Wednesday between Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and Phoenix Suns center Drew Eubanks. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images) (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – NBA games in mid-February are typically uneventful with players eager to finally rest their bodies during the imminent All-Star break. However a matchup on Valentine’s Day between the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns didn’t consist of much love.

The game Wednesday night ended peacefully with the Suns winning 116-100, but started fiery and emotional after Pistons’ forward Isaiah Stewart punched Suns’ center Drew Eubanks in the face pregame, resulting in a “minor injury,” according to local police. Eubanks went on to play in the game, finishing with six points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.

Stewart was “arrested for assault and issued a citation and released. The investigation remains active,” Phoenix police said in a statement.

The incident reportedly started in the Footprint Center players’ parking lot and moved into the arena’s tunnels when Stewart and Eubanks were “going chest-to-chest” until Stewart connected with a swing at Eubanks’ mouth, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The Suns, coach Frank Vogel and teammate Kevin Durant all spoke about the incident, each having Eubanks’ back.

“The attack on Drew Eubanks was unprovoked, and acts of violence such as this are unacceptable,” the Suns said in a statement. “We unequivocally support Drew, and will continue to work with local law enforcement and the NBA.”

Vogel said he found out about the scuffle when he arrived at the arena, roughly around the same time it happened.

“There’s no place for anything like that in our game. There’s no place for it,” he said.

Durant has seen a lot in his 17-year playing career, and offered his thoughts in an understanding way.

“Keep the game first, there’s a lot of noise around our game, there’s a lot of s— that comes with being an NBA player…It’s unfortunate what happened before the game, this is supposed to be a brotherhood, but also understand that dudes get into stuff and stuff may happen. We try to avoid that in this league, but s— happens and hopefully we can move on from it and we all support Drew and have Drew’s back.”

The motive behind the argument and punch are still unclear, and security footage is yet to be released. However, the disagreement between the players may have started during the first Suns-Pistons game this season on Nov. 5, when Eubanks and Stewart were physical with each other.

Eubanks spoke to the media before the game and said that he had never had any problems with Stewart outside of “just basketball s—…just stuff that goes on the court,” per Gerald Bourguet of PHNX.

“Clearly you can see what he does, how he acts on the court, so it wasn’t surprising…words were said, I got sucker punched, and security intervened,” Eubanks detailed.

Eubanks was referencing Stewart’s prior violent acts on the basketball court, which include an altercation with LeBron James in 2021 in which Stewart went beast-mode across the court, fighting through Pistons staff to try and get a piece of James. The kerfuffle resulted in a two-game suspension for Stewart. He also got into a brief tussle with Draymond Green in January of 2023, and then was ejected in a game earlier this season after giving Patrick Beverley a forearm shiver on a screen.

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Pistons coach Monty Williams, back in Phoenix for the first time since being fired by the Suns at the end of last season, said he thought his former organization was premature to weigh in with a statement.

“I know the Suns put out a statement and said it was unprovoked. I think that is irresponsible for them to do that when you really don’t know because two sides are giving their story. I think until you find out everything, you can’t make those statements,” Williams said. ”For me, it’s let’s get all the information. The league will do its due diligence and it’ll come up with something. It’s just one of those situations that we just have to wait and see.”

Knowing that pregame emotions may boil over into the game itself, officials were quick to keep players in check and promptly ejected Suns’ star Devin Booker in the first five minutes of the contest after he argued a call and was given two technical fouls. Vogel also received a technical after questioning why Booker was ejected so quickly and was still perplexed postgame.

“It’s freaking ridiculous, total BS to take a star player out of a game,” Vogel said. “I see worse than what he did on a nightly basis…I see it every night. That was certainly uncalled for and BS.”

Durant was also confused but believed the situation pregame contributed to the ejection.

“I guess (Booker) said something that ticked the ref off, but they were on edge before the game anyway because of the situation,” Durant said. “They thought it might escalate with our team, but that’s not even the type of team we are, we just try to go out there and talk with our game…early on, (the officials) were trying to just let us know that they are going to control the game and I can understand that, but I just think that was too quick of a tech for both of them.”

Ultimately the ejection didn’t cost the Suns a win, as they coasted to a 70-41 halftime lead and won 116-100 to improve to a 33-22 record, while the Pistons fell to 8-46. The situation continues a busy off-the-court week for the Suns, as they traded for Royce O’Neale and David Roddy and signed veteran Thaddeus Young to try and bolster their rotation for a presumed deep playoff run.

The Suns are 14-4 in their last 18 games, and now get a week off for the All-Star break before resuming play on Feb. 22 at Dallas in a primetime game on TNT.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Asher Hyre expects to graduate in August 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Hyre has interned at Position Sports in Phoenix as a marketing coordinator.