WEST TO RESIGN? Jerry West, who brought Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles and made the Lakers one of the NBA's best teams, is not leaving a year earlier than planned, he and the team insist.
This comes in response to a Los Angeles Times story saying concerns over workload and its impact on his health caused West to reassess his current role as Lakers vice president. It said he would leave in August.West, who had said he planned to retire in the summer of 1999 when his contract expires, denied Friday night he had made a decision about getting out earlier.
"I'm not there, no," West said.
"That's speculation by the Times. Jerry West has not said that," Lakers spokesman John Black told The Associated Press on Saturday when asked about the report which the newspaper attributed to league sources.
West, who is 59, starred for the Lakers for 14 seasons. He has been in charge of the club's basketball operations for 16 years, the longest tenure in the NBA.
WILL SABONIS BE BACK? Ask Arvydas Sabonis about his remaining basketball goals and he laughs that deep James Earl Jones laugh of his.
"I have some dreams," he says. "I don't talk about them."
The question is relevant because Sabonis, nearing the end of his third and best season with the Portland Trail Blazers, can opt out of the final two years of his contract this summer and might be tempted to sign with a team that has a better shot at winning a championship.
Sabonis shrugs off the speculation. He will say only that he won't return to play in Europe, where he dominated the game for so long.
"I want to end my career in the NBA," he says.
"Of course," he says, "if Portland wants me."
Sabonis, 33, believes he has a few more NBA seasons left in him.
"It depends on my body," he says, "but I think three years, maybe four."
Keeping Sabonis could force billionaire owner Paul Allen to open his thick wallet once again. Blazers' president Bob Whitsitt already faces the prospect of signing Damon Stoudamire to a multiyear contract that likely will be worth at least $80 million.
Sabonis, who earns a little over $3 million this year, begs off the question of whether he is underpaid. "These are things I talk to my agent about," he says. And, he says, he isn't thinking about his contract until after the season.
MASHBURN ACTIVATED: The Miami Heat activated forward Ja-mal Mash-burn on Saturday and placed Tim Hardaway on the injured list with inflammation of his right knee.
Hardaway, who is averaging 18.9 points, 8.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds, will be available for the playoffs. The Heat, the second seed in the Eastern Conference, open the best-of-5 first-round series against the New York Knicks at home on Friday night.
Mashburn missed 31 games with a fractured right thumb. He underwent surgery Feb. 15, two days after he was injured in the Heat's victory over Detroit. He started 47 games before the injury and was averaging 15.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
The Heat's last regular season game is Sunday at Atlanta. Hardaway did not make the trip.
CHAPMAN ON INJURED LIST: The Phoenix Suns placed Rex Chapman, their leading scorer, on the injured list Saturday with a hamstring pull and signed veteran center Mike Brown for their last regular season game and the playoffs.
Chapman re-aggravated his injured left hamstring in the closing seconds of Friday night's 102-99 loss to Utah. He's averaging a team-high 15.9 points per game.
Brown played briefly for the Suns last season, averaging 2.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in six regular season games and 2.8 points and 1.0 rebounds in four playoff games. He also has played for Chicago, Utah, Minnesota and Philadelphia in his 12-year NBA career.
The Suns close out the regular season at Houston on Sunday.