THE MICHAEL MESS
Lost in the debate over the Michael Jordan-Reggie Miller Shooting Guard Square-off on Feb. 10 in Indianapolis was an interesting fact:
Neither Miller nor Pacer coach Bob Hill was fined for making extremely negative postgame comments about the officiating. Both suggested that the three officials working the game, Jess Kersey, Ronnie Nunn and Ted Bernhardt, blew it by ejecting Miller and not Jordan after the players' first-period fight; Miller and Hill claimed outright that calls are often made on the basis of the status of the players involved. "It just goes to show it's all about money," said Miller. Such explicit criticism of refs usually results in a hefty fine.
But this time league execs had to consider the extenuating circumstance: The refs did blow it—badly. A more experienced crew would have stopped the elbowing between Miller and Jordan long before it reached near-brawl proportions. And Jordan definitely deserved an early shower for his rage-filled reaction to Miller's shove. On Friday, after reviewing the tape of the game, the league gave Jordan a one-game suspension and fined him $10,000.
UNEASY IN PORTLAND
A severe case of the midseason doldrums continued on Sunday in Portland, where the Trail Blazers lost their fourth straight home game, 96-86, to the Clippers. Earlier in the week Portland's star player, Clyde Drexler, finally admitted what he and his teammates had been loath to acknowledge—that the recent publicity over alleged sexual misconduct by several players has adversely affected the Blazers' play.
"It's had a definite impact," said Drexler, "like a cloud hanging over the team. It was a case of young guys making bad decisions."
Portland's slide coincided with the widely publicized investigation of the Jan. 24 incident, which involved three teenage girls in Salt Lake City. The investigation was concluded on Thursday when authorities in Utah announced they would not file criminal charges against any players. The Blazers, however, fined and gave three-game suspensions to rookies Dave Johnson and Tracy Murray, who, according to police reports and interviews with the players by team officials, were the only players who had intercourse with the two 16-year-old girls. (A 15-year-old girl was also present, but she apparently did not have sex.) Another rookie, Reggie Smith, and starter Jerome Kersey were fined but not suspended for violating team rules, including curfew.
The disciplinary actions should have little effect on Portland; only Kersey is a regular contributor. But the Trail Blazers, as we have seen, are a fragile entity. The revelations were a public-relations disaster for a franchise that has always taken pride in its squeaky-clean image. The Blazers were 29-16 at week's end, [6/2] games behind the division-leading Suns.
We will see if, as Drexler says, "everything is behind us," or if the Salt Lake City incident becomes another psychological hurdle that the Blazers cannot clear.