In the latest Jazz adventure, a punch from teammate Bart Kofoed broke a bone in Bobby Hansen's face, knocking Hansen out of action for four to six weeks and making the Jazz search for a fill-in guard.
The incident apparently stemmed from wrestling and horseplay that became heated early Sunday morning, ending a New Year's Eve party at Hansen's house. Hansen sustained a fracture in the orbit below his left eye - he broke the same bone while playing softball in July 1986 - and will likely have surgery this week.The Jazz, who open a five-game trip tonight at Houston, play seven of the next eight on the road. "The timing couldn't be worse," said general manager David Checketts. "To say the least, we're upset by it - it hurts the team very much."
Hansen already missed the first 20 games of the season with a broken hand. "Bobby was just starting to get back into form," said Coach Jerry Sloan. In his last three games, all Jazz home wins, Hansen had averaged 21.7 minutes and 9.3 points.
Kofoed, of course, was third on the Jazz depth chart at the off-guard position, behind Darrell Griffith and Hansen. While Kofoed immediately becomes Griffith's backup, Sloan will experiment with Thurl Bailey at guard and Checketts plans to add a player. The Jazz could sign a CBA player or free agent to a contract for the rest of the season - or for a renewable 10 days, as NBA rules allow to replace an injured player after the 55th day of the season.
Scott Roth, already waived twice this season, is not at the top of the list; the Jazz are looking for a true guard and do have one unnamed player in mind. "There's nobody great out there, but there are some pretty good players," said Checketts.
Checketts is still investigating the incident and is considering disciplinary action, but said, "My sense is that it was more of a spur-of-the-moment thing. I don't think there was any intent on anybody's part."
In November 1987, former Jazz players Carey Scurry and Mel Turpin were not disciplined for fighting in a hotel parking lot in Houston, although no one was hurt in that incident.
Hansen and Kofoed were the only players at the gathering, which had dwindled to five or six people at the time of the fight. "It's an unfortunate situation," said Kofoed.
The incident was kept secret until Monday, when the Jazz practiced at Westminster College. They left for Houston today.
"It's a tough blow for our team, really," said Sloan, "but we can't do anything about it."
Checketts told the players not to discuss the incident among themselves, but Sloan is not worried about dissension. "The players seem to be very responsive to going about their business," he said after practice.