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Utah Jazz: Sloan long ago moved on from 1998

Published: Thursday, June 19 2008 12:01 a.m. MDT

"Watch Jordan's left hand here," the ex-Detroit Pistons star said, "as he gives Russell the push. ... The great thing about Jordan is he has all the tricks. That's why it's so difficult to guard him."

Russell's take on it all?

"The way I see it, it's history," he told SI.com, Sports Illustrated's Web site, last week. "An unbelievable play. A great shot. I put judgment into the hands of those who see it and really understand the game. I don't really question it.

"I thought I played the best defense I could have played on him," Russell said. "He got the shot up. Whether I slipped or they just missed the call, I thought I put myself in a great position to stop him. I give credit where credit is due."

Still, the debate rages on, especially in light of the recent anniversary and Bavetta's name being in the news so much lately.

For Jerry Sloan, however, there is no need to fret, no reason, even, to wonder.

Asked if in retrospect the calls from Game 6 all came down to a matter of judgment, he nods the affirmation.

"Officiating — most of it's all judgment," he said.

Asked if he was concerned by anything beyond that, Sloan read into it the possibility of something perhaps more sinister and responded quite contrarily.

"How can I be?" he asked. "Why can I be?"

Such is the case with all calls, he suggested — even if it is often difficult to accept in the heat of the moment.

"My job is to put players out there, and hopefully they play basketball and not say, 'OK, I got (cheated) on the last play, I'm gonna spend two hours trying to get that back,'" said Sloan, who also was suspended for seven games in 2003 for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland. "Sometimes I do that, to a fault, as everybody knows, in my job.

"But I try to keep the players out of that sort of thing," added Sloan, who frequently lets refs know what he's thinking in no uncertain — and sometimes profanity-laced — terms. "That's why I've always said ... 'You don't play backward, you've got to play forward.'"

Early in the season after those '98 finals, Bavetta approached Sloan and offered some words. "As I recall," the Jazz coach said, "he just said, 'Sorry if I made some mistakes during the game, and good luck to you.' Basically, that's all. What else could he say?"

Asked about what some might deem to have been an apology, Sloan needed no time before offering his thoughts.

"What does it change?" he asked. "If a guy makes a mistake, what else can you say?

"He felt like he made a mistake, and that's fine. I'll live with that," Sloan said. "I've made mistakes myself. Plenty of them."

3 questionable calls

Three controversial decisions from referee Dick Bavetta and his crew in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls:

A 3-pointer in the second quarter by Jazz guard Howard Eisley was not allowed because it supposedly came after the 24-second shot clock had expired, even though TV replays clearly indicate otherwise.

A jumper by Chicago's Ron Harper in the fourth quarter was allowed to stand, even though NBC broadcast crew members thought it should have been a shot-clock violation.

Michael Jordan either pushing off or not pushing off Bryon Russell — depending on one's perspective — before his game-winning shot with 5.2 seconds remaining.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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