Commissioner David Stern, here for the league meetings, has had to field some criticism of the National Basketball Association's change from the old 2-2-1-1-1 championship series home-court format to the 2-3-2 used in the recent Los Angeles-Boston matchup.

There were a number of complaints, mostly from the Celtics, that the baseball World Series-style 2-3-2 setup didn't really reward the team with the best regular-season record -- Boston. Stern granted that there is some merit to the complaint. "But," he said, "that's almost ridiculous. They're saying that what we've done is made the championship series too even. If that's the truth, then I'm defenseless against the charge.

"I've got no problem with that, but what I think will begin to creep out is people arguing that in a lengthy season where a lot of the games don't mean anything anyway, the 2-3-2 isn't enough of a reward for finishing with the best record. I don't know what to say about that, except I don't agree." New Steps for Dancing Barry

Dancing Barry, the tuxedoed gentleman who performs during the fourth quarter of Los Angeles Lakers games, apparently is trying to branch out. Some of the NBA's 23 team public relations directors received a letter from D.B., a.k.a. Barry Richards, inviting them to participate in the first "Dancing Barry Invitational Inter-Conference Basketball Game."

The self-proclaimed "classic" was scheduled to "promote camaraderie amongst the promotions and public relations directors," according to Barry, who closed the letter "Slamdunkingly yours," and added that he might be able to provide uniforms.

The only thing he failed to provide was a time and place for the game. Daly: Ready for Philadelphia

Murphy's Law: When Billy Cunningham resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers this month, one of the logical choices to replace him was Chuck Daly of Detroit. That the Pistons' head man had been an assistant with the 76ers and had coached the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was only half the story.

Daly's wife Terry was hoping for the move because the couple has a daughter at Penn State and because the Dalys own a home near Philadelphia that is being vacated this summer by renters, while the lease on the home they have been renting in Detroit was about to expire.

It fell through because the Pistons changed their compensation demands for releasing Daly, asking the 76ers for a first-round draft pick. Daly agreed that the price was "too high for me or any other coach."

That wasn't much consolation for Terry Daly, who said the missed opportunity was like "having something in the palm of your hand but seeing it snatched out before you could make a fist around it." The Best Policy

Larry Bird of the Celtics, in town to receive the league's most valuable player award for the second consecutive season, flashed a bit of wit when presented his trophy, sponsored by an insurance firm.

"They say that you're in good hands with your company," he said. "Well, considering the way I shot the ball in the championship series, I guess I must have owned a piece of the rock."