NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- You know it must be springtime in New York. Spike Lee is fuming over Reggie Miller's raunchy mouth.
"On the court, he was yelling at me again," the city's most excitable New York Knicks fan was complaining yesterday, reviewing Sunday's heartbreak of a playoff game. "Saying . . . all kinds of stuff."
Lee wasn't denying the Indiana Pacers guard can shoot. After all, the man did single-handedly hijack a certain victory from the Knicks.
But the agitated film director wanted to know: When will Miller shut that foul mouth of his? And when will the slur-slinging Pacer aim his diatribes at someone else?
"He looked like he was trying to charge me," Lee said. "He had to be restrained. My wife said he was a maniac. He lost his mind. We've seen this before. It was the same thing in Game 5 last year, when he made those obscene gestures with my wife sitting next to me."
Ah, yes. Game 5, Round 2, 1994.
Lee and Miller, two old friends, had supposedly made up after that charming encounter last year. That night, Miller's antics included grabbing his crotch -- and shooting dagger eyes at Lee's courtside seat.
The pair patched things up soon enough. Their high-publicity anger was quelled with high-publicity hugs, conveniently staged the Letterman show. Lee even agreed to write the introduction to Miller's new autobiography.
But bygones were not quite by gones yesterday.
"The guy killed the Knicks," Lee said. "He scored eight points in the last 18 or 20 seconds. I know he had two three-pointers. I only remember seeing one. I was standing up. It was right in front of me. . . . Then, he runs to the locker room saying, 'Knicks choke. Knicks choke.' "
And it was right before the choke-a-thon, Lee said, that he and his wife, Tonya Lewis, were pelted with Miller's awful language.
And in response?
"I said nothing," Lee said. "I was in shock. Everybody in the place was shocked."
At Miller's crude words? Not quite. He was stunned into silence ** by the final score, Lee said. "I was nauseous. I was physically nauseous. But I tell you, I was feeling worse last year, after Game 5."
Lee said he has a theory about what's motivating the ill-mannered Miller, why he keeps resorting to these public outbursts in New York.
It's a matter of publicity, a subject the never-bashful director is thought to know a thing or two about.
"He plays in a very small market, Indiana," Lee said. "For a long time, he hasn't gotten that much pub. The series with the Knicks enabled him to show what he could do in front of a national audience."
But Lee said he couldn't help but notice the timing of Miller's outburst. The Pacer held his tongue until after the momentum had turned.
"Oh yeah," Lee said. "He talks like this when the game is over. But when they were down in the game, he was quiet as a mouse."