Nothing Cavalier About This Center's Attitude

Just how tough is Milos Babic? The Yugoslav center from Tennessee Tech, chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Wednesday's NBA draft, recalled an incident from a game last season against Middle Tennessee State.

"Their managers and assistant coaches were talking to me," Babic said. "I don't even want to say what they were saying . . . stuff connected to my home and my past."

One Middle Tennessee player pushed Babic, who stood his ground. The outcome?

"I think he got the better of me," Babic said.

Add Babic: He attended high school with Laker center Vlade Divac in Kraljevo, Yugoslavia.

Tennessee Tech once attempted to recruit Divac, but, Babic said: "Vlade was never much of a scholar. He wouldn't be able to make it here."

Trivia time: What do the universities of Vermont and Western Carolina have in common?

Payton's perfect place: Bart Wright of the Tacoma Morning News-Tribune figures that drafting Gary Payton was a stroke of genius for the Seattle SuperSonics, and that Payton's impact on the team will be comparable to Kevin Johnson's on the Phoenix Suns and Ron Harper's on the Clippers.

Wrote Wright: "He plays a game that is all at once nasty, intelligent and daring, and he does it with elite level physical tools. If you're his teammate, Gary Payton is a creative, motivating force of hot-spirited energy. If you're his opponent, Gary Payton is a guy who plays with bad intentions who can make you look bad every time down court."

Under control: Slumping first baseman Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees told Tom Verducci of Newsday he's been getting plenty of unsolicited advice.

"I'm done listening to anyone and talking to anyone," Mattingly said. "The doorman, the groundskeepers everybody wants to tell me why I'm not hitting. I'm not listening anymore. I've got a good attitude now: . . . everyone."

Earth's surface: In a column from Wimbledon, Mike Littwin of the Baltimore Sun noted that Australia's Pat Cash passed out Greenpeace T-shirts among his fellow professionals.

Cash thought the shirts were appropriate for the tournament. He said, "You can't play on grass if there's no oxygen, can you?"

Not the proper thing: Arthur Ashe, one of HBO's commentators at Wimbledon, commented on the possibility that the traditional dates of the All England championships would be changed to allow more preparation time:

"Don't look for it to occur soon because it would put quite a crimp in London's social season. The lineup now is Queen's birthday, changing of the guard, Wimbledon and the British Open. Change would not be welcome."

Via satellite: Rory Sparrow was attending the NBA Players Assn. meeting in Kona, Hawaii, Wednesday night. A woman riding with him in an elevator did a double-take, then asked, "What's your name?"

"Sparrow," he replied.

"Oh yeah," said the woman. "That's right. Rick Barry was just talking about you on TV. You've been traded to Sacramento."

Sparrow hesitated. "Uh, I don't think so."

"No, it's true," the woman said.

"You've got to be kidding," Sparrow said.

No kidding. Miami Heat partner Billy Cunningham publicly apologized for announcing the trade without contacting Sparrow first.

"Surprised? Yeah, I'm surprised," Sparrow said later. "That's the cold business of professional basketball. But by being a 10-year veteran, you'd expect some mutual respect and courtesy, to be at least given a call in advance to say, 'We're considering trading you.' "

Trivia answer: The same nickname, Catamounts.

Quotebook: CBS auto racing analyst Chris Economacki, wrapping up the network's coverage of the Michigan 400: "And it's quiet except for the cheers of the crowd."

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