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By fining two of its biggest stars $7,500 apiece,...

NEW YORK -- By fining two of its biggest stars $7,500 apiece, the NBA is telling all its players to hit the boards but not each other.

Boston's Larry Bird and Philadelphia's Julius Erving received the most expensive of the fines assessed Tuesday by the league for Friday night's brawl at Boston Garden.

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'He (NBA commissioner David Stern) is sending out a message that he's not going to tolerate fighting in the league,' Utah coach Frank Layden said.

A total of $30,500 in fines socked 18 individuals involved in the incident, following an investigation conducted by NBA Director of Security Jack Joyce. It included a review of videotapes of the incident and interviews with participants and observers.

'I think the commissoner took the position of who Dr. J and Larry Bird are,' said Layden. 'Both of them are fine young men who have clean records and are not known as troublemakers. They are known as contributors in the overall picture of basketball.

'It was an unfortunate thing, but the commissioner has now made his point. Those are elements of the game we certainly don't want.'

Moses Malone of the 76ers and M.L. Carr of the Celtics were fined $3,000 apiece and Charles Barkley of the 76ers was fined $1,000 for their participation in the incident following the initial confrontation between Bird and Erving.

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Philadelphia coach Billy Cunningham was fined $2,500 for his part in the affair and for post-game quotes that Scotty Stirling, NBA Vice President of Operations, described as 'highly inflammatory.'

Stirling wrote to Bird about the fine and described him as 'clearly the aggressor, the instigator of a melee which eventually involved a number of players and coaches. Had you not confronted Erving in such a manner after the offensive foul, the reaction which saw you held and punches thrown at you would not have occurred.'

In writing to Erving, Stirling said, 'While recognizing that Bird was the aggressor and the instigator, your continuation of the incident by punching Bird escalated an already serious situation.'

In addition, 12 players were fined an automatic $500 apiece for leaving their benches during the incident. They were Marc Iavaroni, Clemon Johnson, Bobby Jones, Clint Richardson, Sedale Threatt and Sam Williams of Philadelphia and Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Carlos Clark, Dennis Johnson, Greg Kite and Scott Wedman of Boston.

The incident occurred after Bird and Erving became entangled and Bird was called for an offensive foul with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter of the game, won by Boston 130-119. After the teams headed upcourt, Bird accosted Erving and the fight erupted.

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Stirling also warned Bird and Erving that 'involvement in any further conduct of this nature will result in even more severe penalties, including suspension.'

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