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Sun., March 29, 1998, midnight

That’s one heckuva shot

After Joe Dumars of the Detroit Pistons made a free throw in a recent NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the game was stopped. The crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills stood and applauded as it was announced Dumars had just scored the 20,000th point of his career.

It was a touching tribute to one of the sport’s finest players and gentlemen. There was just one small problem. Dumars was still 4,000 points shy of the milestone.

“Must have been a 3,000-point shot,” Dumars said.

Here’s what happened: The Pistons botched a substitution, meaning Dumars had to come off the bench to shoot a technical free throw. Referee Joey Crawford made such a grand production of ushering Dumars back to the bench that Matt Dobek, the Pistons’ vice president of public relations, joked he couldn’t leave the game because he had just scored 20,000 points.

Crawford immediately told the public address announcer to acknowledge the milestone before anyone had time to stop him. He then presented Dumars with the ball.

“Next time he scores,” Crawford joked later, “announce that he just broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s (all-time scoring) record.”

Slap ‘em with a ruler

The son of NBA player Gerald Wilkins and his girlfriend can be barred from attending a Catholic school while the legal battle continues over their expulsion for kissing in a school hallway, a federal judge ruled recently.

Damien Wilkins, 18, one of the nation’s top prep basketball players, and Allison Mathis, 17, contend racial discrimination was behind their expulsion Feb. 17 from predominantly white Saint John’s Literary Institution at Prospect Hall in Frederick, Md.

School attorney David Grove said he was pleased the judge had reaffirmed the school’s ability to enforce its rule against public displays of affection.

Reggie’s biggest fan

Bruce Keidan in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “I asked Joe Garagiola, who played big-league baseball back in the 1940s and has been observing it at close range ever since, ‘Who had the best home-run trot of any player you’ve seen?’

“‘Reggie Jackson,’ he said without hesitation. ‘He worked on it. Reggie’s only regret was that he never saw himself play.”’

You tell ‘em Tark

Jerry Tarkanian’s troubles are thousands of miles away from Northwestern’s, yet the Fresno State coach figures the two will somehow be linked.

Tarkanian, whose basketball program endured suspensions, arrests and national scrutiny this season, was informed of the latest scandal to rock college basketball after his team was defeated by Georgia in the NIT consolation final on Thursday.

“I didn’t hear about the Northwestern thing until just now,” Tarkanian said. “But I know before it’s over we’ll be blamed. Somebody will say they visited our campus or made a phone call. It’ll be our fault.”

The last word …

“So Isiah’s helping put fuel to the fire? I can play basketball, that’s the bottom line. I can play East Coast, West Coast, Space Jam on Mars. I can play it.”

- Brent Barry of the Miami Heat, responding to criticism from NBC analyst Isiah Thomas that he doesn’t play tough, Eastern Conference-style basketball

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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