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FALK THREATENING TO MOVE VAN HORN UNLESS NETS INK KITTLES

Nobody likes to hear himself talk, or see his name in print, more than David Falk. According to sports' most annoying agent, he's not going to allow Keith Van Horn to re-sign with the Nets after next season if ownership doesn't re-sign Kerry Kittles this summer.

His clients must love hearing they don't have minds, a business sense of their own, and they're being packaged.

What is Falk telling Van Horn? If the Nets ultimately offer $20 million per and the most money available elsewhere doesn't approach that figure, he should prepare himself to settle for less?

How seriously does Falk take himself? A week or two before The Sporting News revealed this year's list of the top 100 most powerful people in sports, sources say the frenzied Falk jetted to St. Louis, where the magazine is based, in an unsuccessful attempt to influence its editors to include him in the top 10.

The best Falk could negotiate was a bump from No. 17 the previous year to No. 15.
Figures! Everybody knows you're only as good as the talent you represent. At one time, Falk was my agent and he couldn't do a thing for me.

Dancing with Wolves

For the first time, Timberwolf billionaire Glen Taylor said publicly he could not afford to keep three star players under contract at the league's current salary level.

Meaning, the Three Musketeers are about to become a duet. Either free agent-in-waiting Tom Gugliotta or Stephon Marbury, whose deal expires after next season, is soon to become an ex-teammate of Kevin Garnett.

"I don't think, in our market size, we can pay three guys at the top of this thing. Can you sign three guys and be profitable? Maybe two, not three."

For whatever it's worth, the T-Wolves are 12-17 since Gugliotta was deactivated due to injury.

Upon hearing the news, Garnett admitted being a bit disappointed.

"In a way, yeah, because of the commitment they said they were going to make," Garnett said. "That makes it a little difficult. It ain't like he ain't got it."

Which is why Garnett is so tough in the aint.

Stamp of approval for Mailman

Larry Miller and Karl Malone came away smiling from a 90-minute meeting Tuesday. The Jazz owner told the 34-year-old postal worker he's "willing to look at how you're playing and not your age" when negotiating their next deal at the end of next season. Miller believes his disgruntled star will finish his career in Utah. He also stressed Jerry Sloan "will choose to retire before we retire him," and that his coach clearly is interested in rebuilding. What, the Jazz or the Mailman's image?

On second thought . . .

Terrell Brandon, who said a lack of desire would probably prompt him to retire after next season, softened his stance soon after consulting with his agent and parents. Or $90 million minutes after the story was published.

Rider in the storm

Whenever Portland fans now voice their displeasure at J.R. Rider's pet proclivity of going one on two, three or five, he waves his arms, asking for more abuse. "I'm one of the top five shooting guards in the league, all across the board," Rider fantasized. "What if we get to the Finals? Will they still be booing me?" In a an Orlando Sentinel poll, Blazer fans said they would boo Rider throughout the championship parade and into the ring ceremony.

Winning cures all ills

In response to suggestions that Rik Smits' resurgence, particularly in terms of health, is related to his free agent-to-be status, Larry Bird disagreed. "If you're having success, guys will play through what I'll call minor injuries -- sprained ankles, bumps and bruises. You start losing and they'll bail out on you in a second."

And they call it charity . . .

Vin Baker offered a logical explanation for his eight-point production in the Sonics' recent loss to the Lakers. Says he was exhausted from trying to rebound Shaq's missed free throws.

Tweeeeet!

When in doubt, crucify the referees. A day after VP of Violence Rod Thorn penalized Larry Brown, Derrick Coleman and Allen Iverson a combined 19G for questioning Billy Oakes' integrity, Charles Barkley branded Jack Nies a "gutless official who holds grudges." Nies responded by saying, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw people through them."

Polynice's heart ain't in it

After Olden Polynice and Eddie Jordan argued during a second-quarter timeout at the Forum, the Kings' sub center spat on the floor near his coach, which earned him a two-game suspension. Said one forward observer of the saliva display, "It was like his game, It was half-hearted." Long-suffering Polynice fans say his spit just hasn't been the same since being traded for Scottie Pippen on draft day.

Put backs

Reggie Miller caught Vlade Divac with a vicious forearm to the chin long after Friday's game had been decided, earning an immediate expulsion. Said Anthony Mason: "If that's the way they want to play . . . If Reggie hit me like that, he wouldn't get off the court." . . . Ejected Thursday after a skirmish with Danny Ferry, an enraged Oliver Miller did not return to the locker room as required. Instead, he went behind the SkyDome's temporary bleachers and headed straight for the concession stand, er, the Cavaliers' locker room before being stopped by seven security guards, three policemen and a center divider.

Onlookers claim Miller wanted a piece of Ferry as well as everything else on the menu.

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