PORTLAND, JUNE 13 -- Detroit guard Joe Dumars released a statement, his first public comments since the death of his father Sunday.

It read: "First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has treated me with great respect during the past few days. The fans of Portland have offered nothing but encouragement and that has helped me tremendously. While I have asked not to be interviewed, the media has also been very supportive by allowing me to remain in the background.

"The concern of all the fans back in Detroit has been overwhelming. If any of you have gone through a situation like this you realize how important and helpful the support is. From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone."

Strom Did It All

Earl Strom, then a younger pup, was working a game in an arena that no longer exists. The St. Louis Hawks' assistant general manager was working the game clock in a matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I called a play against Richie Guerin," Strom recalled, "and the 76ers won the game. The game was being televised back to Philadelphia. . . . Of course the fans were irate, everybody was screaming and yelling.

"As I was walking to the scoring table, {the assistant general manager} looked at me and said 'You gutless {person}.' And I stupidly said to him 'Would you like to repeat that?' And he did, stupidly.

"I leaped across the table and grabbed him. The camera was on me. And my wife and five children were sitting in the living room watching this idiot jump across the table. Wilt Chamberlain walked by. The fans started to come down from the seats. And Wilt saw this and stepped across the table and picked me up and said 'Come on, Earl, let's get the hell out of here.'

"Now my wife didn't know if Wilt was on my side or not. She just sees this giant picking me up. And Matt Guokas says on TV, 'Well, it looks like Earl is in some kind of trouble. But we'll see you next week.' And they went off the air."

Such hijinks were part of Strom's 32-year officiating career, which comes to an end with the NBA Finals. Strom, 62, may have already worked his last game, Game 4 on Tuesday. He is not scheduled to officiate Game 5, and Detroit holds a 3-1 lead over Portland.

In a news conference Wednesday morning, a rare opportunity to pick the brain of a game official, Strom shared some of his opinions on the state of NBA officiating.

On zone defenses: "The referees, to a man, would love to see it done away with. They don't like calling it zone defense because they do allow certain zones to be played. I think they're legislating against teams playing good team defenses, which I think is wrong."

On being a colorful referee: "I think that in order to sell a call, you may have to add a little bit of schmaltz. What's wrong with that? I can't see being robots and standing around and trying to be so rigid that you don't add any personality to the game."

On going back to three-man officiating crews: "I don't think basketball needs three referees. I don't think there are enough good people. These guys are good college referees, but the game is so different. When I broke in the league they said 'It'll take you four or five years to be recognized as an average referee.' "

After his final whistle is blown, Strom will be promoting his book, "Making the Calls," due to be released in November. He said he's not retiring because he's tired physically or mentally; he just thinks three decades is enough.

"I'm going to miss the competition of going out and trying to please people," he said, getting misty, "to be fair and honest and do the job I'm paid to do."

Time Drags On, And On

The fourth quarter of Game 4, what with the eight timeouts taken and 30 free throws attempted, took 57 minutes to play.