ATLANTA (AP) — Pero Antic said he and Atlanta Hawks teammate Thabo Sefolosha were not with Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland when Copeland was stabbed outside a Manhattan nightclub.
Antic and Sefolosha were at the scene early Wednesday. They were charged with obstructing authorities and disorderly conduct and were released without bail.
On Friday, Antic, speaking for the first time about the scene at the arrest, said he and Sefolosha were not part of Copeland’s group.
“We don’t have nothing to do with what happened with that,” Antic said. “We weren’t together. We didn’t even see the guy and whatever happened, happened way before.”
Copeland, Copeland’s girlfriend and another woman were stabbed. A 22-year-old suspect is in custody.
Antic, a 6-foot-11 backup center, said he and Sefolosha were not trying to shield police or onlookers from Copeland.
“I would say that it’s a pure example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Antic said. “I mean, people know Thabo for so many years in the league. He’s probably one of the greatest guys. The reporters who are here know me. … It’s just a pure example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The National Basketball Players Association is investigating the arrests.
“The players union is concerned about the circumstances of Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic’s arrest and is doing its own investigation of the situation,” NBPA communications director Tara Greco said in a statement Friday. “The union was fully engaged in supporting all three players in court and in the precinct this week, and will continue to stay engaged as each situation evolves.”
Attorney Alex Spiro, representing Antic and Sefolosha, said the two did not commit a crime and he expects the charges to be dismissed.
Sefolosha sustained a fractured right lower leg and ligament damage. He will miss the rest of the regular season and postseason.
Antic did not play in the Hawks’ win at Brooklyn on Wednesday night, but was expected to play against Charlotte on Friday night.
The Hawks have clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“The only thing I can say is we feel bad for the bad publicity we brought to the Hawks organization, the Hawks family, not by our fault,” Antic said.
The loss of Sefolosha, a backup forward and strong perimeter defender, comes as the Hawks already are missing starting forward Paul Millsap with a sprained right shoulder.
Coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday that Millsap will not play against Charlotte and also will miss Sunday’s game at Washington. Budenholzer said he believes Millsap can return for the playoffs.
“I think we feel good about the progress he’s making and the timeline,” Budenholzer said.
Budenholzer said he’s not concerned the arrests of Antic and Sefolosha will be a distraction.
“What’s helping most is the players we have in our locker room,” Budenholzer said. “I think they’re a really mature group. They have a high belief in each other and they have a high belief in what they’re doing. There’s a real genuine focus on what can we do as a team.”
Center Al Horford said players are supporting Sefolosha, but he said he hasn’t talked with him about the incident.
“I haven’t really talked to him much about anything,” Horford said. “I’ve kind of given him his space. It’s something he needs to get treatment and when the time is right, I’ll reach out to him.”
Antic said he apologized to his teammates.
“Yeah, you know, they’re supportive,” Antic said. “We apologized to them that we couldn’t even help them in the game in Brooklyn. They win. We congratulated them. We’ve just got the full support of the team. That’s most important for us.”
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