NBA NEWS & NOTES: NEW LOOK FOR SLAM CONTEST
Following a suggestion by '95 winner Harold Miner, the NBA
will make the final round of its All-Star Weekend slam dunk
contest a "dunking duel." The first round will remain the same,
with contestants getting 90 seconds to get in as many impressive
dunks as possible (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/9).
PROFILE: Commissioner David Stern was profiled in Sunday's
N.Y. TIMES, with comparisons to a "trapeze artist" for his
handling of the lockout. Still, small-market teams express
concern over the "Larry Bird Exception," which survived the shut-
down. Pacers President Donnie Walsh: "There is still no real
salary cap ... Teams are going to look for suite deals." Stern,
on the future: "I could let go and try something else. I
haven't seen a good substitute to this point" (Harvey Araton,
N.Y. TIMES, 1/7).
THE FIRST $25 MILLION MAN? In Chicago, Sam Smith ponders
the off-season, with salary negotiations looming for Shaquille
O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutumbo and Michael Jordan.
David Falk, agent to all but Shaq, predicts a new salary
structure this summer with some players making above $20M. Falk:
"It's (up to me) to set the market with Dikembe, Alonzo and Juwan
Howard." If O'Neal gets $20M, Smith asks how Jordan can not be
paid at least that --- and maybe $25M. Smith notes one
possibility being floated is a $10M "sponsor bonus" to Jordan
from Nike as a form of a "salary-cap avoidance compromise"
(CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/8).