Saturday, March 26, 2005
Bomb threat delays start of Pistons game
By Chris McCosky / The Detroit News
AUBURN HILLS - Another Pistons-Pacers game at The Palace, another bizarre occurrence.
It wasn't a brawl that prematurely ended the game, like on Nov. 19. This time, it was at least one and maybe two phoned-in bomb threats that delayed the start for 85 minutes.
According to Auburn Hills chief of police Doreen E. Olko, The Palace switchboard took a call from an unknown person at 7:19 p.m., 51 minutes before the scheduled tip-off. The caller said there was a bomb inside the Pacers locker room.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle told reporters that there were actually two calls from the same person, one earlier in the day and the other at 7:19 p.m.
Either way, it set off a chaotic series of events, including the Pacers filing back onto their team bus three separate times, driving to a far corner of the parking lot and threatening not to play the game.
"It was very disturbing to have your lives threatened," the Pacers' Reggie Miller said. "This is just a basketball game. We were pretty much split down the middle with guys who wanted to play and guys who didn't."
Whether the Pacers wanted to play or not became moot after the team got word from the league office ordering them to get off the bus and play the game.
"We never believed the building was unsafe," Olko said. "But we had to make sure that everyone involved had reached a comfort level before we could allow the game to start."
As part of their normal security measures, the Auburn Hills police had swept through the Pacers locker room and the entire arena with a bomb-sniffing dog on Friday morning.
They did it again in the afternoon, and had security posted outside the locker room the entire day. Then, after receiving the threat, they brought the dog back in for a third sweep.
"We were completely confident that the Pacers locker room and the entire building were safe," Olko said. "If not, we wouldn't be here."
That wasn't good enough for Miller.
"It's just unfortunate that we've been penalized so much this year and nothing has happened to the Pistons, the Palace or the city of Detroit," he said. "It's almost like it's always our fault. The league knows it. They should be ashamed of themselves to let the security be as lax as it is around here."
The security wasn't lax at all. Every precaution was taken before the game and after the bogus threat was received.
"We always get the brunt of it as players," Miller said. "David Stern (NBA commissioner) has to take a hard look in the mirror every morning when he wakes up over the decision he made and the way he's punished us and (not) the Pistons."
The sellout crowd was told only that there was a delay. Meanwhile, they were treated to the Michigan State-Duke basketball game on the overhead scoreboard.
Olko said the police would continue the investigation to determine the identity of the caller.
"This is a serious matter," she said. "We will investigate this matter to the fullest. We are talking about an arena full of people. It's a very, very serious crime."
The Pistons, who were pummeled by the Pacers in the game, 94-81, weren't thrilled about the delay.
"I was hoping they would change the game to another day," said Tayshaun Prince. "I was getting tired just waiting around."
Most of the crowd had filed out long before the game ended at 11:55 p.m. A fight did break out in a lower bowl section well behind the Pacers bench. Security was on it in a hurry and one man was escorted out of the building.
"Let's hurry up and get out of here before they blame that one on us, too," Pacers forward Stephen Jackson said.
Pretty much confirms what was heard before and shows the players feelings. That is completely irresponsible by the NBA to order them to go out there if the Pacers felt their lives could be in danger.