Pero Antic spoke publicly for the first time since he and teammate Thabo Sefolosha were arrested and said the bad publicity brought upon the organization was “not by our fault.”
Antic addressed the media Friday, two days after he and Sefolosha were arrested outside a New York nightclub in the early-morning hours Wednesday and charged with three misdemeanors, including obstructing governmental administration.
“The only thing I can say is we feel bad for the bad publicity that we brought to the Hawks organization, the Hawks family, not by our fault,” Antic said. “I just want to say I am going to be supportive of Thabo, my teammates and just think about the basketball right now and the good things we can do.”
Antic and Sefolosha issued a joint statement Wednesday and indicated that they will contest the charges. A June 16 court date was set at their arraignment.
At some point during the arrest, Sefolosha sustained a broken fibula and ligament damage to his right leg that will require season-ending surgery. The Hawks took a team picture Friday morning, before playing the Hornets, and Sefolosha was walking with crutches.
TMZ released a video of the incident, taken by a bystander, Thursday night that showed several police officers struggling with Sefolosha. He appeared to be put in a headlock and thrown to the ground. Antic referenced the video several times, suggesting it was proof the two did nothing wrong.
Antic was asked directly whether he and Sefolosha were wrongly arrested.
“The video speaks for itself,” he said. “It is a legal matter. We have great people who are great doing their job. We are going to let them do their job. We are going to try to do our job and do what we can because we have big goals for this season.
“I will say it’s a pure example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. People know Thabo for so many years of being in the league. Thabo is one of the greatest guys. A few of the reporters here know me. I don’t have anything (in my past) so it is just a pure example, like I said, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Antic said he addressed the team and apologized for shining a bad light on the Hawks organization. He said his teammates gave him their full support.
“We support our teammates,” DeMarre Carroll said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to ride with my guys. It’s a legal matter. We can’t read too much into it. We’ll do what we can to help them, support them and keep their head straight.”
Al Horford said the Hawks are rallying around their teammates.
The incident occurred at approximately 4 a.m. Police were on the scene after Pacers player Chris Copeland and two women were stabbed during a fight. According to the police report, officers were attempting to establish a crime scene when the two Hawks did not obey orders to move.
“To be honest, no,” Antic said when asked if he and Sefolosha were trying to shield bystanders from taking pictures of Copeland. “We didn’t have anything to do with what happened with that. We weren’t together. We didn’t see the guy. Whatever happened, happened way before.”
The incident occurred one week before the start of the playoffs. The Hawks are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after a historic season of several records, including the franchise mark for wins. Sefolosha will be missed, as the small forward was an integral part of the Hawks’ defense.
The drama comes near the end of a regular season that started with a racially charged firestorm that engulfed the organization before training camp began. The Hawks and Philips Arena have been for sale since September following the discovery of racially insensitive comments in a 2012 email sent by controlling owner Bruce Levenson about the fan base and game operations. That email was discovered as part of an investigation into comments made by general manager Danny Ferry regarding free-agent target Luol Deng in a June conference call with ownership and management. Ferry has been on a leave of absence the entire season.
Coach Mike Budenholzer said the events of the offseason have helped his team deal with the latest controversy.
“What is helping us most is the players that we have in our locker room,” Budenholzer said. “I think they are a really mature group, and they have a high belief in each other. They have a high belief in what they are doing and what they can do on the basketball court. There is a real genuine focus on what can we do as a team.
“I think it’s a great credit to the players that we have. They’ve drawn upon that during the summer, during the season, when we’ve lost a game, when we’ve had injuries. It’s the people that you have that is most important and helps you get through good, bad, indifferent.”
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