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Names In The Game

March 14, 1997

ATLANTA (AP) _ The NBA says Atlanta Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo can still wave his finger after a blocked shot _ as long as he doesn’t point it at an opponent.

Rod Thorn, the NBA’s senior vice president for basketball operations, says Mutombo’s signature hand gesture is OK as long as he doesn’t do it in a taunting fashion.

``He can wave his finger at the crowd if he wants to, but if he waves it at a player, that’s another thing. It may not be called all the time, but it may be called,″ said Thorn.

He said the taunting rule is enforced to prevent fighting.

A memorandum regarding Mutombo’s gesture was distributed Wednesday by the NBA’s chief of officials, Darrell Garretson. In that night’s game in Indiana, Mutombo was hit with a technical foul for pointing his finger after blocking a shot by rookie Erick Dampier.

``Yes, I did it, but only a little and only after we had possession,″ said Mutombo.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Not only players and managers need to be wary of umpires’ warning that they’ll take no guff. Advertisers better be on the lookout, too.

An Ironite Products Co. banner was ejected from Scottdale Stadium because it upset the umpires.

The sign on the outfield wall advertising lawn fertilizer read: ``This field is so green, even the umpires can see it.″

Umpires working San Francisco Giants exhibition games complained to the National League office, and the sign came down Friday.

``I have seen bunt and steal signs changed at the ballpark but have never seen a fertilizer sign changed,″ said Heinz Brungs, president of Ironite Products Co. ``This stinks.″

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MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Former Green Bay Packer Lionel Aldridge, who struggled with bouts of mental illness and homelessness since his playing days ended, held out faint hope he would get back the Super Bowl ring a man stole from him at a restaurant.

``That ring was from the big one (Super Bowl I),″ he said. ``You can’t replace that.″

Aldridge said the size ring symbolizes far more than the Packers’ 1967 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

``It can’t possibly mean anything to him, but it means a great deal to me,″ Aldridge said. ``It represents time.″

Police said Aldridge was at a restaurant on Milwaukee’s east side when the man, who the Packers Hall of Famer did not know, commented on the ring.

``He was sitting just a couple of stools over from me and he noticed the ring on my finger,″ Aldridge said. ``First I showed it to him, and then he asked me more about it, so I took it off my finger and showed it to him. I wish I hadn’t done that.″

Aldridge said he was stunned when the man ran out of the restaurant after he handed him the ring.

A sports memorabilia collector estimated the ring could be worth as much as $20,000.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ If Ohio State calls Steve Alford to talk about its opening for a men’s basketball coach, the former Indiana standout said he will listen.

Alford, coach at Southwest Missouri State for two seasons, was quoted in The Columbus Dispatch Friday as saying that he’s interested in discussing the possibility of succeeding Randy Ayers.

His Southwest Missouri State team was bounced out of the first round of the NIT Wednesday, losing 77-66 to North Carolina State. Southwest Missouri ended its season 24-9.

``It’s not like I’m looking. I’m very happy here,″ Alford said. ``But as a coach, you’ve got to leave your options open, and when something of this magnitude comes open, you’ve got to look at it. It’s a huge opportunity.″

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STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Phoenix Suns coach Danny Ainge, ABC Sports college football analyst Todd Blackledge and Tracy Caulkins, a sports executive and swimming coach in Australia, were among 26 finalists for this year’s GTE Academic Hall of Fame.

The Hall honors former outstanding college student-athletes who have attained high achievements in their professions and have contributed to their communities.

The 26 finalists were selected from a group of more than 100 nominees and were chosen by a 90-member voting board from the College Sports Information Directors. The voting to select the inductees will be done by a committee of five or six COSIDA members.

Ainge was a standout basketball and baseball player at Brigham Young before going into pro careers in both sports, Blackledge led Penn State to a national championship and was voted the nation’s top quarterback, and Caulkins won 12 individual NCAA titles and four relay titles at Florida. All were at school in the 1980s.

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