CHICAGO — Michael Jordan, who loves motherhood, apple pie and games of chance, went gambling at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino the night before Tuesday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The question was, when did he leave?
The New York Times, quoting two unnamed sources, reported he was still in the Bally's Grand casino--a two-hour car ride from Manhattan--at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Jordan said he went by limo with his father and several friends but insisted they left at 11 p.m.
Jordan said he was in bed by 1 a.m. and got eight hours sleep before the team's 10 a.m. shoot around Tuesday.
"The times were all out of context," Jordan said angrily after the Bulls' practice Thursday.
"Anybody who saw me there at 2:30 is lying. . . . You show me the guy who saw me there at 2:30, and he'll have a lawsuit on his hands.
"I wanted to get away from the city of New York and relax, instead of sitting there and listening to the media hype up about the first game--my mistakes, Scottie Pippen didn't play well, Michael Jordan didn't play well. I'm just trying to get away from it, instead of staying in my room, which is four walls, already.
"I chose to take a ride, in a limo, didn't drive, rested, sitting there talking about all the different conversations that my father and my friends could talk about. Get up there, get to a private gambling area, come home at a respectable hour so I can get eight hours, get ready for the next game. And that's the truth."
The New York Times said its sources were two Knick fans, "courtside regulars" at Madison Square Garden, who said they had seen Jordan in the casino at 2:30 a.m.
An accompanying column by Dave Anderson said the two Knick fans were needling Jordan about it during the game.
According to Anderson, one yelled, "You weren't taking golf lessons in Atlantic City, Michael!"
And another yelled: "How's the wrist after the slots?"
Jordan missed 20 of his 32 shots in the Bulls' 96-91 Game 2 loss to the Knicks, including eight of his last 10.
However, that does not qualify as an off-night compared to his previous games against the Knicks this season, when he shot four for 20, 15 for 34, 10 for 28 and 10 for 27.
Although there has never been a documented case of Jordan staying out all night before a game, he has a long history of gamboling and gambling.
During last year's finals in Portland, there were various reports from area country clubs detailing Jordan's rounds of golf hours before the games.
At the Dream Team training headquarters, the Intercontinental Hotel in Monte Carlo, Jordan was a late-night regular at the blackjack tables.
During a two-day break in a 1991 playoff series against the 76ers, Jordan took a reporter on an all-night trip to gamble in Atlantic City. The writer, Mark Vancil, said they walked back into the team's hotel in Philadelphia at 6:30 a.m. just as Coach Phil Jackson was walking out. Vancil said Jordan said hello and Jackson said hello and kept walking.
Jordan then attended a 10 a.m. practice, looking bleary-eyed.
The next night, Jordan played his usual stalwart game, and the Bulls won.
In the summer of 1992, Jordan wrote more than $150,000 in checks to cover gambling losses to various friends in North Carolina, including James (Slim) Bouler, who was subsequently convicted of money laundering.
The NBA said it would have no comment on this incident.
When Jordan was asked about Bouler Thursday, he ended his impromptu press conference and sped out of the parking lot at the Bulls' practice facility, through a phalanx of camera crews, in his white Porsche.
Chicago TV stations led off their news shows with the gambling story. Callers to local radio talk shows were reportedly heavily pro-Jordan.
Predictably, the Knicks chose to stay out of it.
"He had some fun with his life," guard Doc Rivers said. "I think he deserves that. He's only made the league."
The Bulls don't have a curfew and plan to take no action.
Jackson said he was taking Jordan at his word.
"It's totally false," Jackson said Thursday. "He did go down there, but he was back in plenty of time for rest."
How did Jackson feel about Jordan going gambling?
"It was better than going out in Manhattan Monday night," Jackson said. "He's not a schoolboy, he's a man. He knows what he needs to do, and he does the right things."
NBA East Notes
The Knicks' Greg Anthony was fined $5,000 by the NBA for a flagrant foul against Michael Jordan during Game 2. Anthony hit Jordan as he was driving to the basket in the fourth quarter. Anthony was ejected, which carries an additional $250 fine. In accordance with league policy, the Knicks were also fined $5,000.