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The New York Knicks have had dustups this season with the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns, the three teams most likely to vie with them for the NBA title. The worst melee by far occurred last week in Phoenix, where the Knicks and Suns were involved in a brawl that with the playoffs approaching ought to give NBA officials pause.
The league hit the two teams hard: 21 players were assessed a total of $160,500 in fines and nine games in suspensions; the New York and Phoenix franchises were fined $50,000 and $25,000, respectively, for "losing control" of their players. The Knicks can rightly claim that their actions didn't technically precipitate the fireworks. A cheap shot delivered by Sun guard Kevin Johnson to the head of New York guard Doc Rivers touched off the fighting. But the Knicks' tough-guy reputation is red meat to the team's NBA rivals, who go into games against New York feeling they have to prove their manhood. And, unfortunately, the Knicks' image is the product not only of intense, physical defensive play but also of a lack of control. At Phoenix, for example, guard Greg Anthony, who was on the bench in street clothes recovering from a sprained right ankle, went onto the court and suckerpunched Johnson just as order was being restored.
Maybe the Knicks will be able to ride their intimidating ways to an NBA title. But if the alarm inside New York coach Pat Riley's head hasn't already gone off, it should. The Suns started the fight, but ultimately the Knicks paid more for it. Of the Phoenix players, only Johnson was suspended (two games), while the league sat down two Knicks, Anthony (five games) and Rivers (two games). And New York, after arriving in Phoenix with a nine-game win streak, lost not only to the Suns but also to the Utah Jazz in its next game, a setback in the Knicks' battle with Chicago for the best record in the East and the critical home court edge throughout the conference finals.
As far as we're concerned, those silly bets and challenges politicians insist on making over sports events are a big bore. And Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson and New York mayor David Dinkins hit a new low with their exchange after the Sun-Knick fracas. Johnson suggested that the two mayors take up where the teams left off by competing against each other in a triathlon of bowling, miniature golf and an egg toss. Dinkins's people responded with a press release expressing relief that " Mayor Johnson has not challenged Mayor Dinkins to a cactus climb, a scorpion toss or a Gila monster hunt."
This after a brawl?
At the NCAA women's basketball regional in Nacogdoches, Texas, a reporter seated at courtside was asked by tournament officials to pour his soft drink, which was in a purple and red Stephen F. Austin State cup, into a container bearing an NCAA logo. At a news conference, Stephen F. Austin coach Gary Blair was asked to do the same with his can of soda. It seems the NCAA doesn't want other entities to get TV exposure at the expense of tournament sponsors.
Meanwhile, Kelvin Davis, a 6'4" center for Chicago's Mather High, executed his "I'm thirsty" routine in the state high school tournament's slam-dunk contest. After putting a soft-drink can—no NCAA requirement here—on the back of the rim, Davis dunked with his right hand, grabbed the rim with his left and the can with his right, made a show of swigging the soda and spiked the can upon landing. Davis was an also-ran in the event, but credit him with being one sly guy. Our sources tell us that he used an empty can and affixed it to the rim with a magnet.