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exhibitions are fun!

Rabbis, Mediations, and Larry Hughes: Just Another Afternoon at the Garden

The amazing Pini Gershon.

The odds are excellent that you weren't at Madison Square Garden yesterday, watching the Knicks' exhibition 106–91 victory over Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv. There was a late Yankees victory that encouraged everyone to sleep in, the Giants were playing in the Superdome, and the Jets were prepping for a 4 p.m. kickoff at the Meadowlands. Besides, why would anyone go to an exhibition game? Well, it turns out, you missed the best show in town.

The Knicks won, which was no news, really, considering a loss against a Israeli club team would have been embarrassing. But the real fun came in the third quarter, when coach Pini Gershon nearly caused an international incident in a charity game.

Gershon, who apparently is known for this sort of thing, had been furious with the (replacement) referees all game. When the Knicks' Al Harrington was whistled for an iffy foul in that third quarter, for some reason, that set Gershon off. (Imagine if it would have been his own player whistled.) He screamed and stomped to the point that the refs had had enough and nailed him with his second technical foul, an automatic ejection. But Gershon decided that, nope, he doesn't live by your "rules" and refused to leave the court. In an exhibition game played for charity, in a blowout. Goofiness ensued.


Gershon remained in front of his team's bench, not far from where the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was sitting. It was as if Gershon were preparing to call the next play and put in a couple of substitutes. For a few moments, it seemed as if no one knew what to do with him, until a clutch of league representatives scurried over.

"He wouldn't leave," said Scott Jaffer, an N.B.A. security official who spoke with Gershon on the court. "I tried to talk him out of it. They wanted to stop the game."

When in trouble, though, Maccabi officials took a page from A Serious Man and asked the rabbi for advice. Specifically, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, president of the "center for orphans and abused and underprivileged children in Israel" that received the proceeds from the game. Grossman, who was sitting courtside, decided to mediate with the refs, attempting to talk them into letting Gershon stay. But with replacement refs and regular refs alike, it's two technicals and you're out, even if that rule's not in the Talmud. Eventually, Gershon left the court but MSG reported later that he tried to sneak back on, Bobby Valentine–style, when he realized the visitors' locker room didn't have a feed of the game.

That was a lot more fun than an exhibition against the Globetrotters. Can Coach D'Antoni make Gershon an assistant? How about Grossman?

Anyway, the Knicks played well, we suppose, but the real news concerns Larry Hughes, the overpaid headache who the team very well might cut outright at some point this year. Well, good news! Hughes made his first exhibition field goal yesterday, ending a zero-for-eighteen streak. Huzzah, Larry Hughes! Knicks fans, we remind you of the website from his Cavs days: Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots. You'll have reason to check it often.

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Photo: Getty Images