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Magic Johnson Ejected From Suns-Lakers Game

April 15, 1996 GMT

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Magic Johnson bumped into a second-year NBA referee and was ejected in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers 118-114 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

Afterward, the 36-year-old superstar acknowledged that he’ll probably be suspended for his action.

``After looking at the replay, I realize it was my fault, I got in his way,″ said Johnson, one of the most vocal critics of Nick Van Exel when the Lakers guard drew a seven-game suspension for shoving a referee last Tuesday. ``Although it wasn’t intentional, I should have gotten kicked out.

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``I consider myself an ambassador in this league. With my reputation and history, I can’t imagine getting more than a one or two (game) suspension. I have to accept the responsibility for what I did.″

Johnson bumped Scott Foster, 29, with 4:13 left in the second quarter and the Lakers leading the Suns 49-46. The incident happened after Johnson missed a layup and protested, claiming he was fouled.

First, Foster called a technical foul. Johnson then ran toward Foster and made contact with the official, who immediately threw Johnson out of the game.

``I’m not making any excuses, but he made a mistake by not acknowledging when I went over to talk to him,″ Johnson said. ``When he called the (technical), I had the right to talk to him because I am the (team) captain and he ignored me. That got me really (angry). I was just trying to get his attention.

``I didn’t intend to make contact when I went over to him. But when he blew such a quick whistle on that technical, I felt I had a right to know why.

``I want to be the best example for this team. I harp on the other players all the time for what they do wrong and now I do this. I just hope they still hear my voice, especially Nick.″

Johnson said had Foster been a veteran official, he didn’t believe the incident would have happened.

``I also think that this ref needs to take some responsibility for what he did for not acknowledging me,″ Johnson said.

Foster spoke briefly to a pool reporter after the game, saying, ``Magic charged me after a no-call. I gave him a technical foul. He bumped me. I gave him another technical foul, ejection.

``I gave him (the first technical) for coming at me and arguing the no-call. Him charging at me was enough.″

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When asked whether he thought the contact was accidental or intentional, Foster replied, ``Intentional or accidental, it doesn’t matter, he bumped me and there’s no question about whether he’s ejected or not.″

If Johnson is suspended, which seems likely, he’ll be the third NBA player suspended in the last month for making contact with an official.

The first was Chicago’s Dennis Rodman, who was suspended for six games and fined $20,000 after head-butting Ted Bernhardt last month. Then came Van Exel, who was suspended for the Lakers’ final seven regular-season games and fined an NBA-record $25,000 after hitting Ron Garretson with his left forearm last Tuesday and knocking Garretson onto a scorer’s table.

During the game, Johnson and Lakers coach Del Harris both blamed Foster to some degree, but both backed off afterward.

``I feel it was inadvertent,″ said Harris, who earlier expressed the opinion that Foster initiated the contact. ``No way Magic intended to go out after this referee. I feel it was a no-fault situation.″

Johnson had eight points, one rebound and two assists in eight minutes before being ejected. It was his first ejection as a player since Dec. 26, 1988 at Phoenix. He was ejected once as a coach during his brief tenure in the job with the Lakers two years ago.

``I think it was an accident, it was not that big a deal,″ Phoenix forward Charles Barkley said. ``It’s over with. People make a big deal out of everything. What Nick did was wrong. I think what Magic did was inadvertent.″