Though the Indiana Pacers probably would be loath to say so, the infamous November 2004 brawl with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills could still be resonating with the team. Though it reached the Eastern Conference semifinals the season of the melee, where it lost to those same Detroit Pistons, Indiana is only 89-88 (.503) in the 177 regular-season games since the brawl. That's a far cry from their 120-57 record (.678) in the identical number of games before the brawl.
Heavy on point guards and small forwards but lacking interior toughness, the mismatched roster built by Isiah Thomas as president before becoming coach of the New York Knicks this season appears as frequently overwhelmed now as it was last season.
The Knicks, a dismal 3-8 at home and 8-14 overall, have trailed by double digits at some point in 18 of their 22 games. Last season, they trailed by as much in 56 of their 82 games on their way to a 23-59 record.
A BALL OF CONFUSION
Amid the furor over the new ball, players are wondering why they didn't get to test it at the last All-Star game. It turns out that only three people, retired-players-turned-TV-analysts Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr, officially tested the ball. Jackson told the Associated Press that they spent less than an hour one day at Madison Square Garden shooting, passing and dribbling it.
-- PAUL NETTER