Ted Stepien does it again, $8 million worth. His basketball antics must have the baseball owners looking in their mirrors, shaking their heads and vowing all the harder to save themselves from themselves.

Stepien, the Cleveland Cavaliers' owner, certainly has his NBA brethren aghast with five-year, $5 million offer to Otis Birdsong and now a four-year, $3 million package for James Edwards -- the first such moves under the new rule by which a rival team signing a free agent does not have to compensate the club the player is leaving. The NBA had the power, and used it, to put a moratorium on trades by the Cavs after a series of weirdies by Stepien early last season, but this is hands-tied time for Larry O'Brien & Co.

Both players signed the required "offer sheet," meaning they're gone unless the team holding their last contract matches, within 15 days, the Cleveland bid.

Reaction from Kansas City, Birdsong's club, by G.M. Jeff Cohen: "One million dollars for a guard is the most insane thing I've ever heard of."

And from Indiana, which reportedly paid Edwards $620,000 to play center last season, listen to Pacer Coach Jack McKinney: "We hope to have him back -- but we are being ostracized right now by the public because of increasing ticket prices, and that was before this escalation of salaries. You wonder if the public will be able to handle this . . . In the long run, they will have to pay for it.". . .

One way or another. The champion Boston Celtics looked at a payroll expected to double within five years, other escalating costs -- and at an invitation from Howard Baldwin, owner of the NHL Hartford Whalers, to join him in formation of a regional pay cable television network. And announced yesterday they're going to do it; New England Prime Cable Network to begin service this fall. . . .

As baseball counts down: Willie Wilson shows up for a K.C. Royal flight in a sweater, violating team dress code, and after confrontation with Manager Jim Frey walks away -- to catch a separate flight to Seattle, not to arrive until double-header opener is into its third inning. Frey plays Wilson in the second game; won't say if there'll be any fine. . . . Dave Collins, long hitter at Cincinnati management, really steams as the Reds fine him $50 for tosing a baseball to a fan in Riverfront's right-field stands -- whence it had dropped. Says, "It'll cost them, too -- a ballplayer.". . .

The ranks dwindle, with two St. Louis-area deaths; Gene Green, 47, catcher-outfielder for five major league teams 1957-63; bests, .281 as a '58 Cardinal; .280, 18 HR, 62 RBI as a '61 Washington Senator. . . . Bill Bayne, 82, an AL southpaw (31-32) of the 1920s. Interesting obit note, if accurate: May 5, 1922 -- Bayne of the Browns has Detroit hitless into the eighth inning.The Tiger player-manager sends up five straight righty pinch hitters (one singles to start the ninth), finally one for himself, and Bayne strikes out Bob Fothergill -- believed the pinch hitter ever for Ty Cobb. . . .

A Harvard man got on us for saying De Matha's Bob Ferry, opting for the Crimson, became the 100th Margon Wootten Stag to get a "full scholarship" when the Ivy League doesn't give 'em. Excuse the loose language. Ferry ended as De Matha's No. 3 scorer, all-time behind Adrian Dantley and Ernie Cage, and the Cages keep cagin'. The ACC ref and ex-Terp sends 5-foot-8 daughter Candace Cage from Elizabeth Seton High in Bladensburg to Winthrop College, Rock Hill, S.C. -- on athletic scholarship.

As his boss the a.d. only prepares to retire, a retirement party at the UM Center of Adult Education on Thursday ($17.50, via M Club) royally sends of 35-year Maryland coach (soccer, tennis) Doyle Royal.