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Shaq fined and suspended for hitting Ostertag

November 4, 1997 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Shaquille O’Neal was suspended for one game and also fined $10,000 by the NBA on Monday for slapping Utah center Greg Ostertag before their teams’ season opener last week.

The total tab for the slap will be steep, costing O’Neal the fine plus one game’s pay _ $156,794 _ he won’t receive because of the suspension.

O’Neal apologized to Ostertag earlier in the day, admitting he had failed to set a good example for young people.

``I hope he accepts my apology and that he and I can put behind us any bad feelings,″ he said in a statement.

``I made a mistake. Instead of focusing upon what is best for the team, I got caught up in the drama of the season’s first game and reacted emotionally instead of logically,″ said O’Neal, who was to miss Tuesday night’s game at Sacramento.

Ostertag, in Salt Lake City for Utah’s game Monday night against Washington, refused comment despite repeated questions from reporters prior to the game.

The 7-foot-1 O’Neal slapped Ostertag near the court at the Forum in Inglewood on Friday, knocking him to the floor. The Jazz were leaving the court after a pregame shoot-around and the Lakers were preparing to take the court.

The 7-2 Ostertag was not hurt and went on to play, scoring two points in the Jazz’s 104-87 loss to the Lakers. O’Neal was recuperating from an abdominal muscle injury and didn’t play.

O’Neal didn’t say what prompted the outburst, but there had been bad blood between the players. They were matched up last season in the Western Conference semifinals, won by Utah.

O’Neal also apologized to his team, specifically to owner Jerry Buss and executive vice president Jerry West, and to fans.

``I acknowledge my responsibility to set a good example for young people and I admit that in this instance, I did not do so,″ O’Neal said. ``I ask those young people not to emulate my conduct here because there is no excuse to engage in physical confrontation.

``I always tell kids to follow their dreams but I should add that it is important to learn from your mistakes and prepare yourself so that they will not happen again.″