Cavs' Potapenko Eludes T

March 3, 1999,

Riled up

Eric Riley was booed in his hometown last night. He got tangled up with Cavaliers center Vitaly Potapenko, the benches cleared, and the players had to be separated.

"He just went crazy," Riley said.

Potapenko, who wears a mask to protect his broken nose, said, "All I wanted to do was protect myself because my nose still has 10 days to two weeks to heal."

Strangely, Shawn Kemp was given a technical along with Riley, but not Potapenko.

"I don't know why," Riley said. "Kemp was just trying to break it up."

Fan interference

It was an interesting Fan vs. Coach night. Rick Pitino got into a humorous verbal confrontation with Al Boyer, one of Cleveland's notorious hecklers. Boyer called Riley a CBA stiff, a comment that inspired Pitino to question Boyer's athletic credentials. "Who are you to talk?" Pitino said, pointing to Boyer's midsection . . . Paul Pierce finished the night 0 for 11, with only 2 points, his first bad game in 13 starts. He said his last 0-fer was in his freshman year at Kansas. "I'm going to have bad games," he said. "Michael Jordan, the great player he was, even he had bad games. But I'm not going to let this get me down. I'm going to put it behind me." . . . Wayne Embry didn't need to see yesterday's press release, which stated that Pierce was NBA Rookie of the Month for February. Embry, the general manager of the Cavaliers, saw this coming last June. "Oh, buddy, that kid knows what he's doing," the former Celtics backup center said. Embry was so impressed with Pierce that he tried to make the rookie a former Celtic, too. The Cavs tried to entice the Celtics by offering Potapenko and Wesley Person for Pierce earlier this season. The Cavs also tried desperately to make a deal with Vancouver last year so they could use the Grizzlies' first-round pick (second overall) to draft Pierce.

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