Did Larry Bird reinjure his permanently damaged right index finger in a fight outside Chelsea's restaurant during the
"No," snapped Bird when the question was posed. "And you can tell whoever made that up . . . "
The rumor has been making the rounds for weeks, and Dr. Thomas Silva, the team physician, said yesterday, "I was approached by Jack Joyce (NBA director of security). There were rumors that Larry had been in some kind of altercation. I told him that I had examined Larry's finger and that there was no evidence of human bite marks or abrasions of the face or hand. And we know that the condition of Larry's finger is such that he cannot make a fist."
The first rumors of a Bird fight surfaced after Boston's Game 2 victory over Philadelphia May 14. Bird shot 11 for 19 in the next game at Philadelphia, and said he reinjured his finger during that game. The finger was badly swollen the next morning (before Game 4 in Philadelphia) and Bird shot 4 for 15 that day. It was the start of a a season-closing, eight-game stretch in which Bird shot 40 percent (63-156).
"As far as I know, nothing happened," said GM Jan Volk. "It's a rumor. I know I saw him hurt it in that third game against Philadelphia."
It has been almost two months since the Celtics surrendered the NBA championship, and accounts over the past two days indicate that Larry Bird may have injured his right hand during a scuffle outside a downtown lounge on the night of May 16, in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff finals.
Bird's right index finger was badly swollen on the morning of May 19, following a Saturday game in Philadelphia, and his performance slumped markedly in most of the games following the alleged incident.
Mike Harlow, a 35-year-old bartender currently working at Little Rascals in the Quincy Market area, alleges that he was punched by Bird on that night after an altercation that began in Chelsea's, another area bar, and carried out to the corner of State Street and Merchant's Row.
"It happened," Harlow said Sunday night. "He sucker-punched me in the jaw."
Bird refused comment yesterday.
Lawyers for Harlow and Bird confirmed yesterday that they have been in contact with each other.
Harlow is represented by the firm of Cooley Manion Moore & Jones. Attorney Kevin Glynn, who is handling the case with Pat Jones, said, "There was an incident and Harlow has retained the services of our offices."
Glynn said that no criminal complaint had been filed, but indicated that they are seeking an out-of-court settlement.
Meanwhile, Boston attorney Dan Harrington has been hired by an unidentified woman who is seeking damages from both Bird and Chelsea's.
"I have been retained to represent a female who was also assaulted by Larry Bird in the matter," Harrington said yesterday. "She was a female companion of Harlow's; the incident arose out of a situation involving her."
On the night of May 30, Bird was asked if he was involved in the alleged incident and answered, "No, and you can tell whoever made that up . . ."
Bird's attorney, Bob Woolf, said, "The reports I've heard have been totally uncharacteristic of any behavior Larry has had in the past. This is something they (Harlow's lawyers) have brought to my attention, and we're going to be looking into it. I will be speaking to them later in the week. Our options are to find out what the circumstances were and make a decision."
Harrington said he had not spoken with Woolf, but added, "He's been sent a copy of the notice sent to the bar. There's no suit filed."
Bird isn't giving his side of the story now, but details of the night in question are beginning to surface.
The Celtics took a 2-0 Eastern Conference final series lead with a 106-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, May 14. Two nights later, Bird was in Chelsea's with Celtic guard Quinn Buckner and a friend, Nick Harris. Bird is a regular customer at Chelsea's when the Celtics are in town.
Bird and Harlow, then Harris and Harlow allegedly got into a shouting match and a fight allegedly broke out between Harlow and Harris as the altercation moved outside. Massachusetts General Hospital has a record of a 39-year-old Nick Harris receiving emergency-room treatment on May 16.
An eyewitness who asked to remain unidentified said, "I don't know what happened inside over there, but there was noise and a scuffle as they came across the (State) street. Then Larry Bird went 'boom,' a nice swoop over the top with his right hand to the left side of the face."
Asked if he was certain it was Bird, the witness said, "I know what he looks like, and somebody that size you don't mistake. He was wearing a baseball cap with some insignia on it and a warm-up jacket. There's no doubt in my mind. He hit him and then a couple of guys from Chelsea's grabbed him and pulled him back inside."
A police car, with lights flashing, reportedly went down State Street (going the wrong way on a one-way street), but the Boston Police's Department of Informational Services shows no record of any arrests.
Chelsea's officials have been guarded about the alleged incident. Yesterday, Chelsea's manager Ray Malley said, "There was no situation. We've refrained from any kind of comment. You're way out of bounds if you believe Mike's story. It's not true."
Harlow has worked at several establishments as a bartender in the market area. He is 6 feet 2 and weighs over 200 pounds, and was an offensive lineman for Colgate University's football team in the early '70s. He's planning to open a restaurant in Hyde Park next month.
Celtics general manager Jan Volk said yesterday, "I know nothing about the incident. I know there was a rumor and a statement by Larry Bird, and that was it. I never talked to Larry about it. From all the information I have, Larry Bird's injury occurred on the court." Bird's statement, made during the Lakers' series, was in response to a reporter's question about a rumored incident outside Chelsea's.
Bird's right index finger was badly swollen before Sunday's Game 4 (May 19) of the Eastern Conference championship in Philadelphia, but Volk believes the injury occurred in Saturday's Game 3. Celtic trainer Ray Melchiorre said yesterday that Bird did not come to him for treatment of the hand before Game 3 or Game 4. Bird shot well (11 for 19) in the game immediately following the alleged incident, but he was 4 for 15 on Sunday and his numbers were unusually low for the remainder of the playoffs.
Attorney Dan Harrington yesterday chastized Larry Bird's attorney, Bob Woolf, for suggesting that his client, an unidentified woman, was attempting a shakedown in a damage suit that she plans to file against the Celtics star stemming from an alleged May 19 altercation in a downtown lounge.
"I'm not going to approach Woolf for an out-of-court settlement," declared Harrington. "He's going to have to come to me. Otherwise, I'll take his client to court.
"I saw him say on TV that there was no basis for her claim against Bird, and he remarked that it was a shakedown. She's now receiving medical care because of the assault on her."
Harrington's client is one of four principals involved in the alleged altercation at Chelsea's, a bar in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Mike Harlow, a bartender, alleges he was punched by Bird, and also plans legal action.
Nick Harris, who reportedly was with Bird at the time, allegedly also had words with Harlow before the fight broke out. Harris required hospitalization. The argument was believed to have started over remarks made to the woman.
Woolf denied he ever said Harrington's client was attempting a shakedown. "I never mentioned her name," he said. "I simply said that someone is looking to make some money."
Asked if he'd consider settling out of court, Woolf said, "As a practical matter I would, because it could cost more to go to court."
Peace finally has been reached in the Battle of Chelsea's .
Attorney Bob Woolf yesterday confirmed a report that Larry Bird has agreed to an out-of-court settlement of his alleged altercation with a Quincy Market bartender.
"All I will say is that an amicable agreement has been reached and all parties are pleased with it," said Woolf, adding, "I do not want to comment any more because all parties had a confidentiality agreement."
A Globe story on July 30 reported that Celtics star Bird had fought with Mike Harlow, a bartender and bouncer at several Quincy Market establishments.
Bird and Harlow, 35, reportedly exchanged punches on May 16 outside Chelsea's, a bar on State Street, following an argument inside the establishment.
Harlow retained the law firm of Cooley Mannion Moore & Jones to represent him. The lawyers worked over the summer on the matter before reaching an agreement that kept the matter out of court.