Stern sees 'no problem' with Jordan


PHOENIX -- Commissioner David Stern, making his annual "state of the NBA address" yesterday, was besieged by questions concerning Michael Jordan's celebrated gambling habits. But Stern did his best to downplay the issue.

"Betting on golf and going to Atlantic City do not violate current NBA rules," he said. "The issue of gambling that affects us is gambling on NBA games, and we are satisfied there is no problem there [with Jordan] at the current time."

But the commissioner did say it didn't enhance the NBA's integrity.

Because you have the right to gamble in a casino or bet on golf doesn't necessarily make that the right thing to do," he said. "Those are the types of discussions, across a broad range of relationships with our players, that we have on an ongoing basis."

Stern said the NBA has been free of gambling scandals. However, several former players, most notably Jack Molinas with the Fort Wayne Pistons, and Alex Groza and Ralph Beard of the Indianapolis Olympians, were barred from the league in the 1950s because of allegedly fixing games during their college careers.

Coach's corner

Former Atlanta Hawks boss Mike Fratello reportedly has replaced Nets assistant Paul Silas as the No. 1 candidate for the Cleveland Cavaliers' vacancy created by Lenny Wilkens' move to Atlanta.

But Fratello remains mum on the subject. "Right now, my job is still with NBC," said Fratello, a game analyst. "When the finals end, I'll address the coaching situation."

Cleveland scratched the name of John MacLeod, who coached the Suns for 14 years and spent a year in New York. Instead MacLeod decided to remain at Notre Dame.

Former Milwaukee Bucks coach Del Harris, who quit after suffering burnout, is back in the coaching picture. Harris is in the running for the L.A. Clippers' job as a replacement for Larry Brown, who will direct the Indiana Pacers next season. Brown is expected to soon hire former ABA sidekick Doug Moe as an assistant.

Don't wrinkle the material

Chicago forward Scottie Pippen took exception when Phoenix reserve guard Frank Johnson grabbed him by the shirt in Game 1, tearing it and forcing a uniform change.

"Yeah, I grabbed and held him," admitted Johnson, 34, a former Washington Bullet who has resurrected his NBA career after a three-year sojourn in Italy. "Sometimes, you do whatever it takes. Scottie said I didn't have to hold him. I said I wasn't trying to. Besides, I almost broke my finger on the play."

Where's Madonna?

Charles Barkley, who created quite a stir by spending a night out with Madonna, was a little more subdued following the Game 1 loss. Sir Charles took his grandma, Johnny Mickens, of Leeds, Ala., out for a quiet dinner of ribs.

Giant tracks

Georghe Mureson, a 7-foot-7 Romanian who was considered a possible first-round pick in the June 30 NBA draft, reportedly has signed a three-year deal to play for Barcelona in the Spanish Basketball League. Mureson showed he had potential this year playing for Pau Orthes, a French team that reached the European finals.

Don't be surprised if an NBA team chooses Mureson to own his rights, just as Chicago did in the case of Yugoslav star Toni Kukoc, who is expected to join the Bulls next year.

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