NEW YORK (AP) - NBA referee Joey Crawford was suspended indefinitely by commissioner David Stern on Tuesday for his conduct toward Tim Duncan, who contends the official challenged him to a fight.
Crawford, regarded as a top referee, ejected Duncan from a game in Dallas on Sunday. He called a second technical foul on the San Antonio Spurs star while he was on the bench.
"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?"' Duncan said. "If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?"'
Crawford's suspension will last at least through the NBA finals. He apparently will have to meet with Stern after that to discuss reinstatement.
"Joey Crawford's handling of this situation failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees," Stern said in a statement. "Especially in light of similar prior acts by this official, a significant suspension is warranted.
"Although Joey is consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands his responsibilities."
The prior act Stern noted likely refers to the 2003 Western Conference finals, a matchup involving the same teams as in Sunday's game. Crawford called four technical fouls in the first 10-plus minutes, leading to ejections of then-Mavs coach Don Nelson and assistant Del Harris.
Crawford also called a technical in a recent game against Duncan, who said Sunday that Crawford has a "personal vendetta against me."
Duncan was called for his first technical foul Sunday with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter for arguing about an offensive foul. Crawford hit him with the second technical 1:16 later after Duncan was on the bench laughing about a call that went against the Spurs.
With Duncan gone, the Mavericks rallied to beat the Spurs, ending San Antonio's chance of earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Speaking to a pool reporter before Duncan spoke, Crawford was asked about Duncan thinking he had done nothing to warrant the ejection.
"That's his opinion," said Crawford, adding that Duncan referred to him with an expletive. "Is that nothing?"