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Friday, March 24, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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SIDELINE CHATTER

Bad news, good news on Jordan's finger

If he hadn't retired, Michael Jordan could have been to finger surgery what Tommy John is to elbow operations.

The world's most famous basketball player disclosed he can no longer palm a basketball or pick it up off the dribble as deftly - all because he sliced his right index finger on a cigar cutter in the Bahamas after his final season with the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan says he went to an emergency room, where the doctor snapped the tendon while evaluating the wound. Back in Chicago, former Bulls physician John Hefferon tried to repair the damage.

"When Hefferon did the surgery, he saw all the ligament damage I already had from dislocating my finger so many times," Jordan said. "So the only thing he could do was reattach the tendon. He said, `You'll lose some mobility; there is nothing I can do.'

"It was ironic, the timing, but I was going to retire before this happened."

The bad news, Jordan said, is that the injury bothers his golf grip. If there's any good news, it's that he can no longer hold a baseball bat.

No word on whether he can still operate a cigar cutter.

Gotta run and gun

College coaches lose players all the time. They transfer, they drop out, they go pro, they fall in love, they even graduate.

But Cal Coach Ben Braun can tell you a new one this week. Even if Braun's Bears beat Wake Forest tonight to advance to the NIT's Final Four, backup center Shahar Gordon won't play.

Gordon starts a two-year hitch in the Israeli army April 2.

"He really has helped us," said Braun, noting Gordon's five points and five rebounds in Tuesday's 60-49 victory over Georgetown. "It will be a factor not having him."

Gordon was originally scheduled to miss tonight's quarterfinal game, but he made arrangements to play against the Demon Deacons, who have several bulky front-court players.

And that's good, Braun said, because whether its the army or basketball, you can never have enough infantry.

Ringing in her ears

Leila Ali is 4-0 in her fledgling ring career, not long enough to develop cauliflower ears. She does, however, have a deaf ear when it comes to Jacqueline Frazier-Lyde, who covets a September showdown with Ali to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their fighting fathers' famous "Thrilla in Manila."

"(Ali's) not talking about me," complained Frazier-Lyde, 2-0 after stopping Annie Brooks, a 200-pound truck driver, on Sunday. "But I know she's having nightmares about me."

Lighting the torch

"Swifter, Higher, Stronger" is the Olympic motto. To that, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko adds his own addendum: " - Or Else."

Meeting with his republic's top sports officials, Lukashenko essentially wished them lots of Luk. "I want to warn you," he said, "that after the Olympics, if they are not successful, you will all carefully pack up and find new jobs."

Yes, it's only 160 days until the Sydney Games and the world's celebration of sports and brotherhood.

- Dwight Perry, The Seattle Times

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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