THE NBA : Ferry Ride in Rome Is on Back of Shaw

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are reputations. So Brian Shaw, the other American on Il Messaggero of the Italian League, had one specially made.

The Italians are making one for him, all right. Making sure he doesn't come off looking better than Danny Ferry.

You don't pay $2 million for Ferry and then have the supporting cast upstage the star. So what if Shaw, the former UC Santa Barbara star and first-round choice of the Boston Celtics, has been posting better numbers.

Switch them.

And that is what happened. Shaw has been the leading scorer in most games, only to see his point totals listed next to Ferry's name in the box scores in the paper, and vice versa. It has happened a few times too many to be considered mistakes, especially since Rome-based Il Messaggero owns one of the publications.

And they say the East Coast media are tough!

Shaw, no doubt longing for the NBA more every day, doesn't know who dictated the move. His agent, Leonard Armato, called Rome to slap some wrists.

"I was talking with someone last week and they said, 'You must understand, they brought you here to set up Danny. They want (Ferry) to be the next Larry Bird,' " Shaw said. "And I told him, 'If I wanted to set up Larry Bird, I would have stayed home and done it with the real thing.' "

Which is probably the plan for next season. For now, Shaw is locked into staying, unless Il Messaggero goes into a long slump and looks to unload some expectations, or unless he really starts bucking the plan.

If Shaw does leave before next spring, when the Italian season ends, it is conceivable that the team that made worldwide headlines by inducing Shaw and Ferry to leave the United States will have neither. One of the hardest things in the NBA these days is finding someone--agent, coach, general manager--who doesn't think Ferry, despite also having a no-escape deal, will be celebrating New Year's Day with his Cleveland Cavalier teammates.

Author, author: Rick Pitino provided quite an epilogue to his two-year stint as coach of the New York Knicks, adding a new chapter in the paperback version of his book, "Born to Coach."

Talking about his departure to become coach at the University of Kentucky, Pitino says the main reason he left was Al Bianchi, the Knicks' general manager. Originally, Pitino said that the motivation for the move was wanting to get back into the college ranks.

Now that he is gone, Pitino says that among other things, he never had the support of his general manager and that Bianchi merely settled for him as coach.

"Look, I've been in this business for 20 years and I have a long memory," Bianchi said, refusing to get into the verbal war, at least this month. "Let's just say I will take care of it when the time comes. There are a few loose ends to tie up. When Al Bianchi leaves New York, he will take care of them."

Publishers await.

When Mark Price was sidelined because of a sprained right foot, Cleveland opened with four consecutive defeats, committed an average of 18.8 turnovers and made only four of 25 three-point shots (16%).

Since Price's return, the Cavaliers are 5-2, are shooting 41% on three pointers--38 of 93--and are averaging only 12 turnovers.

Draft notices: The Seattle SuperSonics took a flier by using the 17th pick in June for Shawn Kemp, who was attempting to become the fifth player to jump from high school to the NBA. Beyond that, he carried excess baggage in the form of a checkered off-the-court stint at the University of Kentucky.

But no one ever questioned Kemp's talent. Now, no one questions his talent or attitude.

The real surprise is that he has come along so quickly. He is averaging seven points and 4.1 rebounds while playing in 12 of 13 games, but he leads the team in blocked shots and in the last two games has shot 64.3% and averaged 14 points and 8.5 rebounds.

Not bad for a teen-ager. Kemp turned 20 Sunday.

"If I played him when I was 19, he would have killed me," said teammate Xavier McDaniel, who led the NCAA in scoring and rebounding as a 21-year-old at Wichita State. "I had a little turn-around jump shot, and that's about all. I was a garbage man, more or less.

"He has a lot of natural gifts. For him, it just depends on how hard he wants to work. He can be like Moses Malone--in 10 years he can still be in his prime."

And then there's Pervis Ellison, the No. 1 pick who missed training camp because of bone spurs in his right foot and ankle and recently missed more time because of tendinitis in his big right toe. He is already testing the patience of people in Sacramento, where Never Nervous Pervis, the complimentary moniker from his Louisville days, is now known as Out of Service Pervis.

He has played a total of 26 minutes in two games, averaging six points and five rebounds. Worse, he got booed at recent home games against New York and Indiana after showing up in street clothes.

"At this rate, Pervis is going to be a great player for my successor," Coach Jerry Reynolds said.

Nov. 20 made it three years since then-Clipper Marques Johnson bumped his head into teammate Benoit Benjamin's ample stomach, causing a ruptured disk in Johnson's neck and accelerating his downward spiral from the NBA.

Johnson, signed this year by Golden State as a longshot free agent, is averaging only 9.9 minutes and 3.8 points while appearing in eight of 11 games. But he has no regrets about the comeback.

"I was in the locker room the other night after the Phoenix game," he said. "My older boys walk in looking real down. They say, 'Dad, Dad, you didn't play. Don't you feel bad?'

"I start to laugh. I said, 'Lighten up, guys. What are you sad about? Hey, I'm in the NBA, there are 15,000 people in the stands, I'm back with Nellie (Coach Don Nelson), I'm back in basketball. I'm happy.' "

NBA Notes

The Dallas Mavericks aren't saying so publicly, but team officials are not expecting Roy Tarpley to be back until at least the All-Star break, and that's assuming he isn't sentenced to up to six months in jail after being accused of driving while intoxicated. . . . Charlotte offered Dell Curry and a No. 1 pick to Cleveland for Ron Harper, obviously looking at a three-way trade with the Clippers to get Danny Ferry to North Carolina. . . . Detroit's 102-82 loss Sunday to the Trail Blazers marked the 20th consecutive time the Pistons have lost at Portland. The streak dates to October of 1974.

Rony Seikaly will donate $10 to charity for every missed free throw, which didn't seem like such a bad idea since the Miami Heat center shot a pitiful 51.1% last season. Seikaly is disappointing Kids in Crisis, an organization that assists abused children, by improving to 33 of 52, or 63.5%. . . . Orlando's Matt Goukas is the 14th coach Reggie Theus has played for in 12 NBA seasons. . . . The Boston Celtics are wearing black armbands this season in remembrance of Joan Cohen, the wife of team vice chairman and treasurer Alan Cohen, who died of cancer. The New York Knicks have a black patch on their uniforms, in memory of John Condon, the longtime public address announcer at Madison Square Garden.

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