After blocking six of University of Utah product Keith Van Horn's shots in a recent win over New Jersey, Philadelphia forward Theo Ratliff recalled their days in the Western Athletic Conference. "I played him in college (for two seasons), so I'm used to playing against him," said Ratliff, who attended Wyoming. "I know the kind of game he wants to play." His secret to defending Van Horn is simple. "I just wait until he thinks he has a shot.". . . The Lakers, both management and players, are denying reports head coach Del Harris could be fired before the playoffs. However, where there's smoke . . . Kings guard Mitch Richmond may be not be so disgruntled after all. He is willing to finish his career in Sacramento if the Kings will tear up their current agreement and grant him a contract extension. The all-star is scheduled to make $2.8 million next season . . .Michael Jordan has yet to officially announce his retirement, but signs are mounting it'll happen at season's end. Random House is set to introduce a career retrospective on the Bulls star this fall. The book publisher said it will be released after his retirement. Do they know something? . . . Mavericks boss Don Nelson is at it again. He publicly stated Dallas may be interested in obtaining Warriors bad boy Latrell Sprewell. Memo to Nellie: Forget it. You've already got Michael Finley and Cedric Ceballos to play that position. On second thought, some Mavs fan would probably like to see someone's hands around Nelson's neck . . . Aging Pistons guard Joe Dumars has been promised a job in Detroit's front office as soon as he retires. The former all-star said he is not interested in coaching . . . The Sixers are deciding whether or not to pick up the final year of Derrick Coleman's contract. The forward, who has bounced back with averages of 16.3 points and 10.1 rebounds this season after drifting into obscurity, can be retained for $13.1 million. Should Philadelphia balk at the option year, it will hve to cough up $5.6 million as part of a buyout agreement . . . It's starting to look like Knicks center Patrick Ewing may just back up his claim to play again this season after severely injuring his right wrist. He was recently seen shooting free throws at a team shootaround . . . Karl Malone and Jordan finished first and second, respectively, in a recent USA Today statistical survey for the NBA's MVP award. The rating system pitted 10 candidates in 10 different categories. Don't read too much into it, however, one of the measuring sticks was attendance . . . Free agent Yinka Dare, who was released by the Magic shortly after arriving from New Jersey in the Rony Seikaly trade, has been hanging around Orlando. He even asked the Magic for a uniform and a spot in the team picture.