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NBA All-Star Notes : Riley Fulfills His Assignment Despite Death of His Brother

February 08, 1988|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — When the Lakers resume play Tuesday night at the Forum against the Indiana Pacers, assistant coach Bill Bertka will be running the team. Pat Riley will be in Valrico, Fla., for the funeral of his brother, Len, who died at age 52 Friday after a lengthy illness.

"It was a little difficult," Riley said about coaching Sunday's All-Star game here. "It wasn't easy. But that's life."

Riley's wife, Chris, said it was more difficult than Riley let on.

"It was a hard weekend," she said. "But he's Irish, and he keeps it all in. It's very sad--(Len) was a young man."

Pat Riley is the youngest of three brothers. He also has two sisters. Last week, he asked all of the Laker players to sign a card that he sent to his dying brother.

"What made it easier was knowing that Len and his family would have wanted Pat to coach here," Chris Riley said. "There was a real bond of love there.

"Len was always the best athlete in the family--he was 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. It's real sad to think of your indestructible big brother (dying)."

James Worthy's on-again, off-again, will he or won't he All-Star saga was off, then on again Sunday afternoon. A Laker official released a statement before the game stating that Worthy would not play because of the tendinitis in his left knee, but Worthy wound up playing 13 minutes, scoring 4 points.

"At first, I wasn't going to at all," Worthy said, "because the knee was feeling pretty bad. But it felt better in warm-ups, so I told (Pat Riley) I wanted to play.

"It was my decision. I'd come over 1,500 miles to get here, and playing is what an All-Star game is all about."

He kept the appearance short, however, because of recurring pain. "Obviously, there was no use in being out there," he said.

Would he play Tuesday against the Pacers?

"Wait and see," said the forward, who has missed five games because of the injury. "Too early to tell."

Seattle SuperSonic forward Xavier McDaniel, on the now notorious photograph of the chokehold he applied on Laker Wes Matthews in a game earlier this season: "I hate that picture, to be honest. People don't believe it, but I'm a nice guy. Now people think I'm a mass murderer. Even my mother saw it and said, 'What's wrong with you?' "

Asked what went through his mind when he grabbed Matthews, McDaniel said: "I don't think anything went through my mind. It was blank, like a blank tape."

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