Palace dispute occurred before Game 3

Updated: June 14, 2004, 7:31 PM ET
Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Police are investigating a confrontation between Karl Malone and a fan who says the Lakers' forward poked him in the face before Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

In a dispute shown repeatedly on national television, the man was at the edge of the court during Los Angeles' layup drill before Thursday night's game, won by the Detroit Pistons 88-68.

Malone, a 19-year NBA veteran and the league's second-leading career scorer, said Friday that the fan had obviously been drinking and spit in his face while heckling him.

"He was really out of line," Malone said. "Just because you buy a ticket doesn't mean you should be able to get on the court and degrade somebody."

Malone shouted back and jabbed his right index finger at the man, whose head jerked backward. As to whether he made contact, Malone said, "Maybe I did, but he was in my playing field.

"He was on the court. Where was the security in the arena?" he said.

The unidentified man complained to the Auburn Hills police.

"At this time, the investigation is going on and we are not releasing any information about the case," police Lt. James Manning said.

Manning said police would release more information Monday.

"I'm not going to let a guy spit on me," Malone said. "I'm not going to take that. I've never had that happen before."

Malone also said fans have harassed the Lakers at their hotel in nearby Birmingham, Mich.

"They did it all night long until the cops came," Malone said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press