By The Associated Press
Arizona Daily Wildcat April 15, 1996
INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Magic Johnson, of all people, became the latest NBA player to have a run-in with an official.
Johnson, who considers himself an ambassador for the NBA, was ejected for bumping a second-year referee in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 118-114 victory over the Phoenix Suns yesterday.
Despite the absence of Johnson and the suspended Nick Van Exel, the Lakers held off the Suns to win their 50th game - the first season they've reached that plateau since 1990-91, Johnson's last year before he began his comeback 2 1/2 months ago.
That wasn't the only shocker of the day. Phoenix center Joe Kleine fainted during the national anthem, shortly before the start of the nationally televised game, and was taken to a nearby hospital.
Dr. Stephen J. Lombardo, the Lakers physician, said Kleine had a similar episode in Phoenix while exercising two weeks ago.
''We've done some tests on him. He's normal. He's alert,'' Lombardo told reporters at halftime. ''He will spend the night (at the hospital). We will observe him.''
Johnson acknowledged he will probably be suspended for bumping 29-year-old Scott Foster, the third time a prominent player has made contact with an official in the last month.
Dennis Rodman of Chicago was suspended for six games and fined $20,000 after head-butting Ted Bernhardt last month. And Van Exel, the starting Lakers point guard, was suspended for the Lakers' final seven regular-season games and fined an NBA-record $25,0 00 after hitting Ron Garretson with his left forearm last Tuesday, knocking the official onto a scorer's table.
''After looking at the replay, I realize it was my fault. I got in his way,'' said Johnson, a vocal critic of Van Exel. ''Although it wasn't intentional, I should have gotten kicked out.
''I consider myself an ambassador in this league. With my reputation and history, I can't imagine getting more than a one or two (game) suspension. I have to accept the responsibility for what I did.''
Foster spoke briefly to a pool reporter after the game, saying, ''I gave him (the first technical) for coming at me and arguing the no-call. Him charging at me was enough.''
When asked whether he thought the contact was accidental or intentional, Foster replied, ''Intentional or accidental, it doesn't matter, he bumped me and there's no question about whether he's ejected or not.''
Anthony Peeler's 3-pointer with 1:51 left in the third snapped an 81-all tie and put the Lakers ahead for good. But it was close the rest of the way.
The Suns drew within 115-114 on Wayman Tisdale's short jumper with 47 seconds left, but Elden Campbell's dunk with 10.2 seconds remaining extended the Lakers lead to three points, and, after Wesley Person missed a 3-point shot that could have tied the gam e, Eddie Jones made a foul shot with 1.6 seconds to go to clinch the victory.
''The Magic incident definitely overshadows our 50th win,'' said Lakers coach Del Harris.