There was no love lost between the Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night.
Tempers flared in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks hung on for a 110-100 victory over the Clippers on before 6,535 fans at the Sports Arena.
The action started when Clipper forward Michael Cage took a swing at Roy Tarpley, the Mavericks' talented sixth man, after Tarpley fouled him and then elbowed him with 7:02 left in the game. Tarpley got a technical for elbowing him.
That was just the preliminary bout, however.
Clipper rookie forward Ken Norman was ejected from the game with 4:08 remaining after he gave Mark Aguirre, the Mavericks' All-Star forward, a two-handed shove high in the chest. Both Norman and Aguirre are from Chicago and have played against each other in a summer league there.
"Personally, I can't stand Aguirre, I never could," Norman said. "I've known him since I was in high school. I played against him in a summer league back home, and that's why I can't stand him."
The incident started when Aguirre elbowed Norman out of position while going for a rebound underneath the Clipper basket. They exchanged words afterward as they were running up court and then Norman shoved him.
"He (Aguirre) asked me what I wanted to do, and I asked him what he wanted to do," Norman said. "And he called me a punk."
Aguirre responded by laughing, and Norman got the heave-ho from referee Bruce Alexander, who also called a technical foul on Norman and Clipper guard Quintin Dailey.
"He (Aguirre) was upset because I was in his jock," Norman said. "I was getting elbowed by him the whole game. He's one of the best players in the NBA, but he needs to grow up. He could be the best forward in the NBA if he'd grow up."
Said Aguirre, who led the Mavericks with 25 points: "I wasn't swinging. I'm against violence in the NBA. I was just battling. It got kind of physical, that's all. I guess he didn't like what I was doing."
Norman also received an automatic $250 from the NBA for the ejection.
Was it worth it?
"Yes, if I can get a loan from you all (the media) to pay it," Norman joked.
Said Clipper Coach Gene Shue: "I thought Ken was holding his own ground. The Dallas team was jawing all night. And Mark was pushing with (Joe) Wolf and then with Ken. Ken was just holding his own ground and I felt he was playing smart."
Aguirre, who has had Norman over for dinner at his house in Chicago, said he was unaware Norman didn't like him.
"I think he (Norman) is a nice player," Aguirre said. "I think he's going to be an excellent player. I've got seven years in this league, and he's a rookie. I've been through this before.
"Maybe I should stay out of his way because he doesn't like me. I wouldn't have let him in my house if I knew he didn't like me. He said he doesn't like me? I can't believe that.
"I haven't played in the summer league in six years, so he must really keep a grudge."
Dailey, who also received a technical foul after the incident between Aguirre and Norman, said he'll appeal it to the National Basketball Assn. office. It was the first technical foul that he has received during his NBA career.
"All I said was yeah, he (Rolando Blackman) missed the technical foul shot," Dailey said. "I'm going to call tomorrow and try to get my money back. I didn't cuss him out. It wasn't my fault.
"There was a push before (by Tarpley) that didn't get anyone thrown out of the game. But our guy gets kicked out of the game for pushing him and he (Norman) was playing well."
Said Cage, who led the Clippers with 20 points and 10 rebounds: "The game was physical from the start. Everyone got a little hot under the collar. I think it all started when Tarpley gave me a shove and got called for the technical.
"Aguirre and Ken had been shoving all night. Bruce (Alexander) stepped in and called the technical. I thought Ken deserved it because he hit Mark. Bruce made the call and got a little control back to the game."
The ejection of Norman seemed to take the life out of the Clippers, who had cut a 17-point, first-half deficit to 99-93 when Norman lost his temper.
Blackman, who missed the first free throw after the technical on Norman, sank his second technical foul shot and then added two more free throws when he was fouled by Wolf on the Mavericks' ensuing possession. And the Clippers never got any closer.
"We dug a hole for ourselves from the beginning," Shue said. "We had to fight back all night."
The loss left the Clippers with the worst record in the NBA, 11-35.
"We are what we are," Shue said. "There's not much I can say."
After a getting off to a promising 7-10 start, the Clippers have posted a record of 4-24. If the Clippers finish the season with the NBA's worst record, they will be assured of the No. 2 pick in the lottery. They also have another first-round draft pick as a result of a 1986 trade with Sacramento, which sent Derek Smith to the Kings for Mike Woodson and Larry Drew.
Because the Kings are also floundering this season, the Clippers, barring a trade, are likely to have two high draft picks next June.
Guard Derek Harper scored 22 points and had 9 assists as Dallas ended a two-game losing streak. Tarpley scored 16 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench before he fouled out. And Blackman added 19 points. Forward Sam Perkins had 12 points and 9 rebounds.
Center Benoit Benjamin scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Clippers, and Dailey had 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench.