Oops: NBA execs did a good job of not looking panicky about falling TV ratings at the All-Star game -- which soon after posted an all-time low TV rating. This was the more ominous, since the game was not a turkey, had all the league's sparkling young personalities involved and got a terrific lead-in from Vince Carter's performance in the dunk show. Bottom line: This thing hasn't leveled off yet.
Administration, it's not as easy as it looks (cont.): Michael Jordan, frustrated in attempts to unload Juwan Howard, is set to act decisively in another area: firing the Wizard dancers. Newsweek reports Jordan told a source: ''Getting the right players is hard. Finding cheerleaders who can count on time shouldn't be.'' The magazine quoted an unnamed dancer, lamenting, ''They fired Gar (Heard) after a big win. They'll probably fire us after one of our better performances.''
The Emperor's New Clothes (cont.): Cleveland management studiously avoided comment on Shawn Kemp's chunky look until last week, when Owner Gordon Gund said he was ''surprised and disappointed at the way Kemp reported to training camp. I had to be disappointed. Shawn is an exceptional basketball player. I hope he knows that it is not in his best interest to be like this if he wants to be the kind of professional I know he can be.'' Asked if he had spoken to Kemp, Gund said, ''I don't want to talk about this any further.'' Nor will trading Kemp be easy. He has four years left on his back-loaded contract -- worth $73 million, a guaranteed luxury-tax trigger.
The Nets' Keith Van Horn is at career lows with 18 points a game and 41.6 percent shooting. ''What he did the past two years was what made people think he was an all-star,'' says Net General Manager John Nash. ''So I'm not one that would suggest he was overrated. I think the absence of Jayson Williams has been a big adjustment for him. Jayson was a physical presence and made things easier for Keith. ... This isn't Keith Van Horn and the New Jersey Nets anymore. It's Stephon Marbury and the New Jersey Nets, featuring Keith Van Horn. It's a little different than it was and I think that's probably affected his confidence just a tad.'' Then there's the problem of Marbury's disapproval, which Van Horn now concedes, though he insists, ''Someone's demeanor on the court shouldn't affect the way I play."
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