The Miami Heat, one of four expansion teams due to begin play in the 1988-89 season, is in danger of losing its franchise because it has yet to sell 10,000 season tickets, one of the NBA's requirements for entrance into the league.

According to Rod Thorn, NBA vice president of operations, Miami and Charlotte, N.C. -- admitted with Orlando, Fla., and Minnesota in April -- had to reach the 10,000 figure by Dec. 1. At the start of this week, the Heat had sold "about 7,500" tickets.

"They're short and time's running out," Thorn said. "We definitely could {revoke the franchise} -- no doubt about it."

Charlotte Hornets owner George Shinn said in Atlanta when he attended the Hawks-Bullets season opener Nov. 6 that his team was well beyond the 10,000 mark.

"We've got applications from over 15,000 people for season tickets," he said. "They paid a substantial deposit. I don't think they'll want to lose all that money."

Attempts to reach officials from the Heat were unsuccessful. However, the franchise has previously argued that the 10,000-seat requirement is unfair, pointing out that there are only a handful of current NBA teams with that many season tickets sold. Thorn responds, "That was part of the criteria -- they had to sell 10,000 tickets. With what the teams had to pay to enter the league {$32.5 million each}, if they don't have that base they're in trouble to begin with."

Thorn said that if the Heat should approach the mandatory minimum, selling "say about 9,000 seats," the league might consider granting a time extension. But he said that could cause problems with the other new franchises. Pat Williams, president of the Orlando Magic, was quick to agree, saying, "If they were to do that, it would kill us in terms of credibility."

The Reluctant Buck

"We're really not sure why he's sitting out," a Milwaukee Bucks official says of holdout guard Ricky Pierce, winner of the NBA's sixth man award last season. Pierce, who has two years left on his contract, is said to want his $250,000 salary raised to the vicinity of $800,000.

Pierce has been mentioned in any number of possible trades. Last week there was talk he'd be sent to New York in a transaction involving Knicks center Bill Cartwright. Earlier, a wire service even ran a report that Pierce had been dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers for forward Kurt Rambis.

In reality, Pierce is still at home in Texas and "we hope he's doing very well because we love him and he's a part of our family," said Bucks vice president John Steinmiller, with sarcasm. Steinmiller points out that because Pierce is not a free agent, even if he sits out this season and next he'd still be obligated to Milwaukee for those final two seasons of his contract.

"We were going to give him a sizable raise," Steinmiller said. "We want to take care of him but he can't expect to jump from $250,000 to $800,000. Besides, if he's so good, let him come back and prove it this season and then maybe we could do something {with the last year of his contract}."

Skeptics on Robinson

The signing of his eight-year, $24-30 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs has established where the Navy's David Robinson will be when he enters the league in time for the 1989-90 season. But what can fans expect when he finally does take the court?

Not much, according to two Eastern Conference coaches, speaking shortly after the deal was signed.

"He's someone that you want on your team because he's a nice kid and he definitely gives you credibility on and off the floor," said one, "but he's a power forward at best. A lot of his weaknesses got exposed in the Pan American Games."

"He may not be that strong," echoed another. "And that little turnaround shot he has down low -- that'll wind up in the cheap seats."

Chaney Unchained

If Don Chaney, an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks, appears to be smiling all the time, one can hardly blame him. After all, as head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers last season, he experienced victory 12 times in 82 games.

"I'm definitely in a better situation now. I think I might have gone crazy there," Chaney said of his experiences with the Clippers. Much of Chaney's frustration was because of center Benoit Benjamin, who has an all-pro's body but, many in the league say, often plays like a high school small forward.

Now, said Chaney, "I really hope Benoit comes around. I wish him nothing but the best. People always look at me skeptically when I say that, but I really do wish him luck."

The Magic Slipper

Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues, the Bullets' 5-foot-3 guard, has signed a three-year endorsement contract with Converse that, according to his attorney, "is far and away the highest{-paying} shoe endorsement deal for a rookie this year."

"It's obviously not in the range of a {Larry} Bird or Magic {Johnson}, but it's in that next tier," Andrew Brandt said. "I don't know what their exact numbers are, but it puts him right there with Bernard {King}, Isiah {Thomas} and {Kevin} McHale."

Converse is planning to produce a "Muggsy" line of children's shoes and clothing, Brandt said.