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Most Precious Basketball Gold Might Not Be Found in Medals

The consensus is that the NBA’s Olympians will massacre the field at Barcelona next summer, but one man isn’t convinced, or enchanted.

“I’m not one who thinks it’s going to be as easy as most Americans think it will be,” USC Coach George Raveling, an assistant U.S. coach at the 1984 Olympic Games, told the Washington Post’s Mike Wilbon.

“People seem to believe, ‘Send Magic and Bird and kick some butt.’ I certainly think we will win. But for people to be mesmerized by the appearance of some NBA stars who’ve never played together? No, I don’t see that.

“I have a suspicion that behind all of this is a larger picture: The expansion of professional basketball into European and Asian markets. Right before our eyes in Barcelona, we’ll be conditioning the world’s basketball fans to accept pro sports as Americans do.”

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Add Olympics: Unlike the vast collegiate tryout system, this selection process is streamlined.

The team has already been chosen. Newsday reports that invitations have been mailed to:

--Forwards Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and Scottie Pippen.

--Centers David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.

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--Guards Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and John Stockton.

The two other positions are open. One will go to a college player, probably Louisiana State’s Shaquille O’Neal.

Sure, George.

Michael watch: There are reports that Jordan won’t go--since Jordan told everyone within earshot last winter that he had had enough in ’84 and would rather play golf.

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“Everyone is speculating that Michael is not going,” Jordan says. “On Sept. 21, they’re going to (announce) the team. Sometime before Sept. 21, they’re going to know if Michael Jordan is going to play. I have not decided yet.”

Trivia time: What was the last season a sub-50% shooter led the NBA in field goal percentage?

Piecework: Jay Edson, event coordinator for boxing promoter Bob Arum, tells this story about former junior-welterweight champion Aaron Pryor:

“I’m helping Aaron Pryor check into his Miami hotel for his 1982 bout with Alexis Arguello. He had exactly 57 pieces of luggage, for which two bellmen needed several trips up to his suite.

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“Mind you, here’s a guy who’s getting $1.6 million to fight Arguello . . . and he gave them a $3 tip.”

Ow-woo!Floyd Peters, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new defensive coordinator, has switched last year’s disappointing top draft choice, Keith McCants, from linebacker to defensive end.

Don’t bet it won’t work. Peters made Pro Bowl defensive ends out of linebackers William Gay in Detroit and Chris Doleman in Minnesota.

“Denver traded Gay to Detroit,” Peters said. “They came to me and said, ‘Hey, babe, we’ll bay at the moon for a week if you can make a defensive lineman out of him.’ ”

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Color of money: If George Steinbrenner is wondering where America’s best are during the Pan American Games, they are holding up their end in our free-enterprise system.

“A guy in my range, it could cost him between $5,000 and $20,000 (to attend the Pan Am Games),” said veteran pole vaulter Earl Bell, who participated.

He was referring to appearance and prize fees athletes could make in Europe this summer.

For Carl Lewis, the figures would be higher.

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Amen: Terry Foley of Norco writes: “I feel that the time has come to put a stop to many of our local sportscasters such as Fred Roggin (Channel 4) and Ed Arnold (Channel 5) referring to RBIs as ‘RBI.’

“RBIs have been RBIs from the very beginning . . . “

Trivia answer: In 1959-60, the New York Knicks’ Kenny Sears led the NBA with a 47.7% percentage.

Quotebook: Eric Davis, after teammate Rob Dibble of the Cincinnati Reds was let off with a fine for throwing a ball at the Chicago Cubs’ Doug Dascenzo: “Sometimes it’s good not to punish people for every wrong thing they do.”

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