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Teams draw big crowds

Revenues continue to fall

Attendance is up but revenues are down, commissioner David Stern said yesterday at an NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York.

Stern declined to give specific figures but said many of the teams reported a drop in revenue.

"We're still in a negative position, but obviously that's not true of every team," he said after two days of meetings with the league's 30 franchise holders. "Overall, the league remains in a negative position, in a negative cash position."

Attendance, however, was at its highest level since the 1997-98 season -- the final one before the 1998-99 lockout. Arenas were at 89 percent of capacity, and the NBA averaged 17,050 fans a game -- fourth highest in league history.

Also yesterday, the league broke four ties for positioning in the draft lottery May 26. The Los Angeles Clippers edged Atlanta for the fifth position, improving their odds for a higher pick. The three remaining tiebreakers were Toronto over Philadelphia, Golden State over Seattle, and Milwaukee over New Orleans. Atlanta gets Milwaukee's pick via the Rasheed Wallace trade.

The owners and executives who attended yesterday's meeting gave Stern a two-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Italy to commemorate his 20th anniversary as commissioner. Stern, 61, also received a two-minute standing ovation, according to Portland Trail Blazers president Steve Patterson and others at the meeting.

Since Stern became the NBA's fourth commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, the league has added seven franchises, increased revenue tenfold, and launched the Women's NBA and the National Basketball Development League.

Pippen's career at an end

Scottie Pippen said he will probably retire following an injury-shortened season in his return to the Chicago Bulls. But Michael Jordan's old sidekick also hedged a bit, as he has all season. "This is probably it for me," Pippen said, the day after the Bulls completed a 23-59 season -- the first time in his 17-year career he has missed the playoffs. "I'd rather not make a 100 percent commitment. But I'm quite sure that this is probably my last season." . . . The Phoenix Suns are expected to be sold to a new investment group next week, one of the team's current investors said. The new group would pay more than $300 million for the team, with Jerry Colangelo remaining as head of the franchise but not as an owner, the investor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Knicks drop Norris

Moochie Norris was left off the playoff roster by the New York Knicks, who decided to keep Allan Houston active despite coach Lenny Wilkens's guess that there's a 70 percent to 80 percent chance he won't play. Frank Williams will back up point guard Stephon Marbury, and Shandon Anderson will start for Houston at shooting guard. Norris had one of his best games of the season Monday night against New Orleans, scoring 21 points. But Wilkens and team president Isiah Thomas decided Williams, a second-year player, would be a better fit against New Jersey Nets guards Jason Kidd and Lucious Harris. The Knicks also left veteran forward Othella Harrington off the 12-man playoff roster . . . Jamal Mashburn was left off the Hornets' playoff roster after missing all but 19 games this season because of a bruised right knee. The former All-Star was the Hornets' leading scorer in 2002-03 and this year averaged 20.8 points. But the Hornets' struggles to be consistent did not improve with Mashburn in the lineup -- New Orleans went 8-11. Mashburn has not played since sitting out the fourth quarter of a loss in Toronto March 7 . . . Timberwolves backup point guard Troy Hudson will have ankle surgery and miss the playoffs. Hudson was nagged by a chronically sprained ankle most of the season and appeared in only 29 games, averaging 7.5 points and 2.4 assists . . . Forward Gerald Wallace was activated from the Sacramento Kings' injured list and placed on their playoff roster. To make room for Wallace, the Kings left veteran forward Tony Massenburg off the roster. Guard Bobby Jackson also made the playoff roster despite missing 28 of the last 29 games with a strained muscle in his abdomen.

. . .

The final shot of the regular season was made by Kobe Bryant, and it certainly was a big one.

Bryant's 3-pointer as time expired in the second overtime gave Los Angeles a 105-104 victory Wednesday night over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers also won the Pacific Division and dropped the Sacramento Kings -- who had been atop the league standings for most of the season -- to fourth place in the Western Conference.

"I'm just totally shocked," Kings coach Rick Adelman said after his team's 97-91 loss to Golden State. "It's a long season, all that stuff, but we had something to play for. I guess the second or fourth seed doesn't matter to us."

Also Wednesday night, visiting Seattle defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, 118-87. Ray Allen had 26 points and 11 assists as Seattle completed its poorest season in 18 years with a win.

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