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When Pacers star guard Reggie Miller discussed a contract
extension with team president Donnie Walsh in November, he told
Walsh he hoped to be like Kirby Puckett--the Twins' popular
outfielder who took less money than other teams would have paid
and re-signed with Minnesota, where he has played his entire

Last fall members of Indiana's front office were confident that
Miller, in his ninth season, would remain a Pacer forever. Now
they aren't so sure. Negotiations were terminated, in part
because proposed contracts like the Nets' six-year, $40 million
offer (rejected) to Kenny Anderson caused Miller to reevaluate
his own worth.

Miller, who was averaging 21.0 points per game through Sunday,
17th in the league, will wait until the end of the season before
he commits to any deal. If the Pacers falter in the playoffs,
will a frustrated Miller make a decision based on that
postseason failure? And what of persistent reports that Miller's
volatile relationship with coach Larry Brown has made him think
twice about returning?

Brown, Walsh and Miller's agent, Arn Tellem, agree that the
player and the coach have had highly charged disagreements. But
they deny that the spats will be a factor in Miller's decision
to stay or leave.

Miller, usually one of the most quotable and accommodating
players in the league, declined to be interviewed for this
story. "If Larry says there's no feud, then there's no feud" was
Miller's only comment, made through a team spokesman.

Reports of the Brown-Miller spats are "overblown," according to
Tellem. "Larry and Reggie definitely have ups and downs, but
it's not something that will determine whether Reggie stays in
Indiana or not." The deciding factor, not surprisingly, will
likely be dollars. Two teams have piqued Miller's interest: the
Knicks and the Lakers. Under the terms of the league's
collective bargaining agreement, which essentially puts no limit
on the amount a player's current team can pay to re-sign him,
the Pacers are in a position to pay Miller more than either of
those clubs. While they want Miller back, there is a price they
won't pay.

Brown is legendary for his tough handling of his players, and he
says he will not compromise his coaching style because of
Miller's impending free-agent status. "I'm sensitive that this
is an important year for Reggie," says Brown, "but I'm more
sensitive to the fact that I've got to do my job. And my job is
to make him better." Brown has pushed Miller to become a
complete player, and Miller has said he never would have been
selected to 1994's Dream Team II without Brown's guidance. That
guidance is not being solicited at the moment, despite Brown's
ideas about what's best for Miller's career.

"There are certain teams that I hope Reggie doesn't go to, and
not because I'm afraid to play them," Brown says. Does he mean
the Knicks? "Yes," Brown answers. "That would be terrible for
him. The city of New York has seen him play two phenomenal
quarters"--referring to Miller's 25-point fourth quarter in Game
5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals and his eight-point
heroics in the final 8.9 seconds of Game 1 in last season's
Eastern semifinals. "They're going to expect to see that every
night, and it can't be done."


For the first seven years of his NBA career, shooting guard
Hersey Hawkins's livelihood was based one edict: knock down
jumpers--or else. The pressure that accompanied that requirement
weighed heavily on him, both in Philadelphia and Charlotte. So
when Hawkins and swingman David Wingate were traded by the
Hornets to the Sonics for guard Kendall Gill last June, Hawkins
braced himself for another situation in which he would be only
as valuable as his last J. After his first 22 games with the
Sonics, in which he averaged 13.6 points and shot a mere 42.9%
from the floor (including 33.9% in treys), Hawkins prepared
himself for the criticism that he was sure he deserved. "I
played horrible in the beginning," Hawkins says. "But every time
[coach] George [Karl] walked by me, he'd say, 'Don't worry about
your shot. You're playing great.' I knew he was lying, but it
was nice to hear something positive for a change."

Genuine or not, Karl's reassurance was subsequently justified.
In his last 39 games, through Sunday, Hawkins averaged 16.9
points (pushing his season average to 15.7), shot 49.7% from the
field and 40.5% from three-point range. His steadiness, both on
the court and in the locker room, is one of the reasons for a
Seattle surge that at week's end had the Sonics leading the
Western Conference with a 47-14 record.

"There's a peacefulness in our clubhouse that can be directly
credited to guys like Hersey," says Karl. "He's all about team,
and we needed some of that."

Hawkins admits he would rather not be the go-to guy, which is
not a problem in Seattle. When forward Detlef Schrempf missed
the early part of the season with injuries, Hawk was the third
option behind two All-Stars, forward Shawn Kemp and guard Gary
Payton. When Schrempf returned, Hawkins happily became the
fourth look. "It's nice not to have to try to score 25 every
night," Hawkins says. "Here I don't have to."


Bulls guard Michael Jordan, March 7 versus Detroit: 38 MIN,
21-28 FG, 9-10 FT, 2-4 3PT FG, 53 points, 11 rebounds, 6 steals,
2 assists. His Airness set the league's season-high mark for
points in a game, shooting 14 of 16 from the floor in the second
half and outscoring the whole Pistons team 15-13 in the fourth
quarter of the Bulls' 102-81 win.


When the Grizzlies drafted center Bryant (Big Country) Reeves
last June, they promised to bring him along slowly. Early on,
with Reeves being used sparingly, he was quietly dubbed Big
Bust. But since late November, when Reeves became a starter, he
has been averaging a solid 14.6 points and 8.3 rebounds a game
through Sunday.... According to Bullets sources, forward Chris
Webber, out for the season after shoulder surgery, is peeved
that the team is pressuring him to attend games and not asking
the same of point guard Mark Price, who is out with a broken
left foot. But Webber is still calling his close friend and
former teammate, Warriors free-agent-in-waiting Latrell
Sprewell, whom he's trying to persuade to join him in
Washington.... Bulls officials are keeping an eye on All-Star
forward Scottie Pippen, who has been suffering from back pain
and struggling with his shooting (33.6% from the floor in the
nine games through March 10). Pippen had back surgery during his
second year in the league, in 1988.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Hawkins (33) is soaring again after a regimen of verbal massage therapy from Coach Karl. [Hersey Hawkins in game against Cleveland Cavaliers]