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Teams make nice around ref

The Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks were on their best behavior Friday night. And Violet Palmer's barrier-smashing appearance as an NBA referee came and went without a sexist peep in General Motors Place.

Shawn Bradley said having women on the court might even improve players' manners.

"That's good," he said. "A lot of us need that."

Palmer didn't reply to reporters' questions as she left the court after Dallas' 90-88 season-opening victory.

Rod Thorn, the NBA's vice president for operations, who made the transcontinental trek to witness what he called "a historic night," said the league was sticking by its policy of not allowing officials to talk to reporters after games.

"She's like any other referee now," Thorn said.

To Thorn, maybe. To the players, not yet.

"I think guys were kind of scared to say the same things that they would to a male referee," Vancouver's Shareef Abdur-Rahim said. "I've got a mother and sisters, so I don't want to say anything to a woman ref that I wouldn't say to them. They'd probably call and give me a bad time if I said something bad to her."

The players insisted that, down the road, they will treat her like any other ref, but perhaps tempered with a little more respect.

"You don't want to say whatever to a lady. You want to be polite," Vancouver's Blue Edwards said. "But again, to me, she's just an official. I don't see a female referee. I see a referee."

Bradley said players always have to adjust their behavior to the personality of each official.

"Now we've got those old female emotions in there as well," he said. "There are some things that guys say, guy to guy, that if it was said to a woman, it could be offensive. So a guy's got to watch it."

At least publicly, these players accepted her appearance as a sign of the times.

"It's the age we're in where I don't see logically or morally where you could try and stop a woman ref from being an NBA referee," Abdur-Rahim said. "That is the same as blacks not being able to go here or there or a woman not being able to vote. It doesn't bother me. As long as they make the right calls, I'm fine."

Not everyone liked every call Palmer made or didn't make. Dallas coach Jim Cleamons was unhappy with two quick, late fouls she called on Bradley and Dennis Scott.

"In my opinion, a good official, you don't make that call," Cleamons said. "It was a non-veteran official call. You say, "Get your hand off. Remove your hand' because the play is still 40 feet away."

Michael Finley didn't like an early out-of-bounds call by Palmer, complaining briefly but with great expression.

But such moments are routine. The crowd never used her gender as a basis for criticism, at least not loud enough for anyone to hear.

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