There Was Something in the Air When Knicks Played at Garden

The Harlem Globetrotters do tricks with the ball by underinflating it, but you can't do that in the NBA. Or can you?

Chicago Bull Coach Phil Jackson, who played on those great New York Knick teams with Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, et al, told the Chicago Tribune: "We used to deflate the ball because we were a short team and didn't want long rebounds. It also helped our offense because we liked to pass the ball, and other teams couldn't run on us as well because the ball wouldn't come up as fast when they dribbled."

Jackson said the Miami Heat tried the same thing this season to slow down his fast-breaking Bulls. "The balls were so soft, you could stick your thumb in them," he said.

The Heat didn't get away with it.

"I always carry an air-pressure gauge with me," Jackson said.

Add tricks: Bull assistant coach John Bach said the Lakers overinflate their balls because Magic Johnson likes a high dribble.

"I think Phil checked them and found the basketballs at something like 15 or 17 pounds," Bach said.

Regulation is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 pounds.

More tricks: The Boston Celtics, once a fast-breaking team, used to have their nets shortened so the ball would drop through quickly, giving them a faster start on the break.

"They still don't have standard cords around the league, and they should have," Jackson said.

Trivia time: What do coaches Jackson and Bill Fitch of the New Jersey Nets have in common?

High praise: Everybody knows shortstop Barry Larkin of the Cincinnati Reds can hit, but how well does he play defense?

Philadelphia coach Larry Bowa, a former all-star shortstop, told the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I'll tell you what, Larkin could win a Gold Glove. Ozzie Smith gets a lot of it on reputation now. Ozzie gets all the attention. But if you're looking at the whole picture, Larkin's a better player. There's nothing, really, that he can't do."

He can even do Ozzie's favorite stunt, the running front flip.

"I've been doing it since I was a kid," Larkin said.

Ring hazard: Rocky Graziano, who died Tuesday, liked to tell about the time he put Sugar Ray Robinson on the deck. "He tripped over me while I was lying on the canvas," Graziano said.

How-times-have-changed-Dept.: From Minnie Minoso, 67, former Chicago White Sox outfielder: "I get $1,000 for every old-timers' game. By playing seven times a year, I make as much playing baseball now as I did in 1951 as a rookie."

Fashion note: From Jan Hubbard of Newsday: "The Denver Nuggets have a new dress policy that requires ties and shirts. Since it was inaugurated, Doug Moe has not been to the office."

Trivia answer: Fitch was Jackson's coach at the University of North Dakota.

Quotebook: Pat Bradley, on the doggedness of LPGA golfer Dottie Mochrie: "A lot of players talk to their golf ball. Some even yell at it. But Dottie actually thinks it's supposed to listen to her."

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