The NBA's expulsion last week of New Jersey Nets guard Micheal Ray Richardson as a third-time offender under the league's antidrug plan was easily the more publicized case, but not the first. That distinction belongs to John Drew, who last played with the Utah Jazz in 1984 and was approached by the Washington Bullets this past December.

Drew, who averaged 20.7 points during an 11-year NBA career, was playing for the Wyoming Wildcatters of the Continental Basketball Association and was regarded by the Bullets as a possible answer to their lack of offense.

However, very shortly after the forward's name was mentioned, the idea was dropped. The reason?

Ever so quietly, the NBA told all parties concerned -- Drew, agent Tom Rassmussen, the Bullets and any other teams interested -- that Drew was considered expelled from the league.

According to an NBA source, Drew's third drug offense came in the summer of 1985 when he spent time at a Salt Lake City hospital for treatment as part of his court-issued punishment after being arrested and charged with passing bad checks. He had entered drug rehabilitation programs twice previously while a member of the Jazz.

According to league sources, Richardson was the reason Drew's expulsion was not formally announced. At the time of the Bullets' interest, just after Christmas, Richardson had just entered a treatment center. There was some question as to whether that constituted his third offense.

Soon after, the NBA announced that it would be considered Richardson's second offense. But Commissioner David Stern was concerned that announcing Drew's punishment so close to the Richardson case would make it appear that Drew was being offered up as a sacrifice of sorts.

"Stern thought it would be self-serving at best, especially in the context of Micheal Ray," said one NBA source. "There was concern that it would have been misconstrued, perhaps looking like Drew was being brought forth to try and hide a botched job with Richardson. And why drag Drew into anything if we didn't have to?"

Perhaps the best example in all of sport of the rich getting richer is the Boston Celtics. Already owning the best record in the league, the team stands to improve noticeably in next June's draft because it has the first-round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics, acquired last season in a trade for guard Gerald Henderson.

Many around the league were hoping that the SuperSonics would gain the playoffs, thereby knocking Boston out of the lottery. But former Bullets assistant Bernie Bickerstaff's team is 5 1/2 games out of the last slot for postseason play in the Western Conference.

Another trade and its consequences on the draft has created some long faces in Detroit as well as taken some heat off the management of the Sacramento Kings.

Earlier this season the Kings made a deal with the Pistons that appeared as foolish as the one in which the SuperSonics yielded their first-round selection. In acquiring forward Terry Tyler, the Kings gave the Pistons the option of swapping first-round picks in either this June's or next year's draft.

Earlier this season that seemed like a definite lottery pick but after a slow start with Sacramento, which included the end of his string of 574 consecutive games played, Tyler is in the starting lineup. His heart and savvy have helped the Kings win six straight games and move into a 3-game lead over Phoenix for the last Western Conference playoff berth.

Detroit still has the option of taking Sacramento's first-round choice next season, but that's of little consolation to General Manager Jack McCloskey, who hoped to use this season's to fill a hole at power forward.

"I go to sleep every night listening to their scores," McCloskey has said. "Right now, though, I'd have to say it doesn't look good."

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich said yesterday that two Minneapolis-St. Paul businessmen were preparing to fly to New York to submit a preliminary application for an NBA franchise to the league.

The Twin Cities will be the third group to make a preliminary application with the league, joining Miami and Santa Ana, Calif.