Dream Team '96 could be a pipe dream Will tired '92 stars make NBA wary?

In his inaugural address, Bill Clinton paraphrased John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech with his call for self-sacrifice by the populace.

But basketball's best and brightest may be reluctant to risk their careers for the glory of Uncle Sam. Getting a group of NBA stars comparable to the Dream Team to audition for the 1994 World Championships in Toronto could prove a tougher challenge than nominating an attorney general.


Michael Jordan, who, along with Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, helped the United States win gold medals in both the 1984 and 1992 Olympics, said the physical toll of playing basketball year-round could dissuade young millionaires Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Kenny Anderson from following his example.

"I don't like giving advice on things like this," Jordan told The New York Times. "Everybody has their own individual goals. Some players have goals of representing their country, and, if that's the case, they should go. But they should know what they're getting into, physically and mentally."


There also could be a reluctance on the part of some NBA teams to allow their superstars to compete for medals after watching Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen fighting through nagging injuries to regain their pre-Olympic form.

Risks could be curtailed if the Olympic committee dispensed with the five-week summer tryout camp and the ritual of screening players given little or no chance of participating in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Obviously, there were NBA players superior to Christian Laettner, who became the Dream Team's token from the college ranks. Simply picking 12 gifted pros, plus a few alternates, should provide a team capable of beating the best in the world.

Long road to 500

When his New Jersey Nets beat the visiting Houston Rockets on Sunday night, Chuck Daly moved within one victory of becoming the 15th NBA coach to reach 500 victories. But by Daly's personal count, he has surpassed that magical figure.

"I count wins in exhibition games, playoff games, All-Star Games, all of them," said Daly, who notched 467 regular-season victories during his nine years as Detroit Pistons coach.

"I never really imagined myself coaching in the pros, and after my start in Cleveland in 1981, I figured I might not get 10 wins in my NBA career. I'm surprised I made it this far.

"That half-year with the Cavaliers was awful. I won the first one, and then we went 8-32. It was very chaotic. We changed players every week. It lasted all of 93 days, but at least I was well-paid."


Incidentally, of the 14 coaches who have reached 500 wins, only four -- Lenny Wilkens, Don Nelson, Doug Moe and Pat Riley -- are still active. Two of the top seven, Gene Shue and Dick Motta, lost more games than they won.

Mass appeal

Orlando point guard Scott Skiles, a fierce competitor who ranks fourth in the league in assists average (9.3), has been hearing catcalls from Magic fans who want rookie Litterial Green to replace him as a starter.

Said Skiles: "Basketball is like church. Many attend, but few understand."

No tea or sympathy

Former Maryland leader Walt Williams, now starring for the Sacramento Kings, will be sidelined for three weeks after breaking a finger on his shooting hand after a foul by fellow NBA freshman Robert Horry of the Houston Rockets in their encounter Jan. 19.


But Horry shed not a tear. "That was no foul," said Horry, a rugged forward. "I hit the ball, not his hand. If he broke a bone, Walt has weak bones. He should drink more milk. Milk builds strong bodies."