Stern is going against the grain on this one

On behalf of the commissioner's office, we'd like to issue the following statement:


David Stern took personal responsibility for his new basketball last week after getting the bad news that it wasn't just a public relations disaster but an actual menace.

After two months defending the move, Stern just discovered he had no case amid reports of players such as Steve Nash and Jason Kidd having to bandage fingers that were scraped and cut.

Of course, from Stern's perspective, who knew that after all those years making balls for children's games, Spalding would come up with an Edward Scissorhands model?

Now that everyone is agreed on who's right and who's wrong, it has yet to be decided when the players get their old ball back. Nash said he appreciated Stern's honesty but noted, "Now I'm used to the ball. It would be difficult to switch back."

On the bright side, Spalding can still market it for the holiday season as "the perfect gift for your cross-town rivals." Or include a first-aid kit.

Don't cry for

me, Minnesota

It will be a bad day on talk radio if Allen Iverson winds up in Minnesota, ending the Kevin Garnett Watch.

In the meantime, for Lakers fans, Bulls fans and everyone else leaving a light on for him, this was KG before the Iverson story broke, bristling at speculation that he would ask to be traded while zinging his front office.

"I don't do any of the front office stuff," he said. "... If you want to feel sorry for somebody, feel sorry for the people who put the team together and haven't put me in a position to be in those [contending] situations. Don't feel sorry for me."

Tune in next week to see whom to feel sorry for.

Chutzpah award

of the week

Chicago's Ben Wallace now claims he donned his headband to create a furor and revive the Bulls. "Had to do something, right?" he said. Said Coach Scott Skiles: "I wish he would have told me that night so I could have gotten some sleep."

It's a good thing Wallace is good at motivation: In their 6-0 run, he played 30 minutes twice and got 10 rebounds once.

Runners-up: Christian Laettner and former Duke teammate Brian Davis, who announced they would buy Michael Heisley's 70% of the Memphis Grizzlies for $252 million -- assuming the money-losing franchise is worth $360 million -- and promised to bring in "the biggest players in the world" from Hollywood, Wall Street and the NFL.

Seeking buyers for $2-million "ownership units," they announced plans to slash payroll in a prospectus obtained and excerpted by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal: "Davis and Laettner, based on their collective knowledge of professional basketball and the NBA, believe talented players can be recruited at lower payroll costs in order to execute the Business Plan."

Meanwhile, the gold-dust twins stalled the league, which finally went public, noting it hadn't received "important information about other potential investors, including the sources and amounts of funding."

Laettner, whose unlamented career ended two seasons ago, actually intended to play, coming to practice in workout gear the day after announcing the purchase, but was turned around pending an actual sale.

Famous last words

Houston's Yao Ming, asking if Dikembe Mutombo could sit out scrimmages after laying out Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston with elbows: "If he hits somebody in practice, it's our teammate. At least in the games it's 50-50."


-- Mark Heisler

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