RESPITE at last! Seven days passed without a major violent soccer incident forcing the sport to cross over into the news headlines. After Cantona, the Genoa stabbing and the Dublin ruckus it was starting to become a weekly fix. However, last week the only soccer scandal of note was Arsenal manager George Graham's sacking under 'bung' clouds. Serious enough but hardly as telegenic as the violent stuff. But the 'excessive force' baton has been picked up by another of the world's great team sports - basketball. Some recent incidents on ESPN's Sportscenter (Wharf Cable) illustrate the point. Two weeks ago there was Danny Ainge of the Phoenix Suns 'doing a Leonardo' by slamming his elbow back into a rival's face. Last week it was an even bigger name - Shaquille O'Neal of the Orlando Magic who took exception to Boston's Eric Montross hooking his arm as they went for a rebound. O'Neal landed a punch in Montross' sternum, then grabbed him by the throat and followed up with some language which you didn't need a lip-reader to understand. He was immediately ejected. In the wake of Vernon Maxwell's fan attack a fortnight ago, is basketball falling prey to a similar discipline breakdown as soccer? And with this in mind, what could have possessed the people in Miami who devised their half-time entertainment show for the Heat's Friday night clash with the Chicago Bulls (live on ESPN/Wharf Saturday morning)? The family fun involved the Heat's mascot egging on children to see how far they could throw a plastic chair across the court. This, of course, was a jokey reference to the incident a few weeks back when Scottie Pippen threw a tantrum and a chair on to the court. This time Pippen looked on, laughing at courtside. The NBA punished Pippen for the original offence but what is the signal to young children when they see the incident treated in such a lighthearted fashion? THE Paulista League soccer (on ESPN) has revealed a disturbing new gimmick in one of Brazil's major state championships. During last week's entertaining 2-2 draw between national champions Palmeiras and once-great Santos, commentators John Paul Dellacamera and Tommie Smith revealed that the Paulista League is this season experimenting with time-outs. The team who kicks off the half are entitled to call a time-out between minutes 22 and 25 of that half. Interesting, so far no teams have availed themselves of the opportunity. EUROPEAN Cup soccer returns to its traditional two-leg knockout format this week with quarter-final ties, several of them live on ESPN, for the teams who survived the Champions' league stage. NEXT weekend it's the Five Nations rugby championship round four (Prime Sports) and England could win the title without touching a ball. For if Scotland and France lose to Wales and Ireland respectively then no-one can catch the English who are resting after winning their first three matches. Coming up: Prime Sports/STAR TV Friday, March 3, 8.30 am: Basketball, NBA game of the Week double bill - Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks; Orlando Magic v Houston Rockets. 4 pm: Cricket, World Masters Cup 1995 - England v Australia, live from Bombay, India. Saturday, March 4, 4 pm: Cricket, World Masters Cup, India v West Indies, live from Bombay. 10.45 pm: Rugby, Five Nations Championship double bill, Ireland v France, followed by Scotland v Wales. Sunday, March 5, 4 pm: Cricket, World Masters Cup, Australia v South Africa live from Bombay. International/Wharf Cable Today (Monday), 9 am: Basketball, NBA game. March 1, 9 am: Basketball, NBA live game, New York Knicks v Orlando Magic. March 2, 3.55 am: Soccer, European Cup quarter-final first leg, AC Milan v Benfica live (repeated at 10.30 am). 8.30 am: Soccer, European Cup quarter-final first leg, Barcelona v Paris St Germain. March 3, 1 am: Soccer, European Cup quarter-final first leg, Hajduk Split v Ajax, live (repeated at noon and 5 pm). 3 am: Soccer, European Cup quarter-final, first leg, Bayern Munich v IFK Gothenborg, live (repeated at 2 pm). March 4, 9 am: Basketball, NBA live game, Seattle SuperSonics v Phoenix Suns.