A few years ago, it seemed the Atlanta Hawks were going to become the successors to the Celtics and Lakers. General Manager Stan Kasten was named executive of the year and Mike Fratello was coach of the year and then Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird dueled in a memorable seventh game in the conference semifinals.

But, as it turns out, they are becoming the successors to the Clippers.

After a second straight loss to Charlotte last week and a fall into the Central Division cellar, the players had a closed-door meeting amid rumors Moses Malone was to be benched -- because the Hawks were unable to trade him -- and Wilkins and Glenn "Doc" Rivers were among those available.

"At the end of last year when I first came here," said new general manager Pete Babcock, "Mike Fratello told me he felt it was important we make changes in the nucleus. Mike may have been correct.

"The decision in the next few weeks is going to be if it has run its course; Has the nucleus of this team been together too long? Maybe it's time to change the nucleus."

HE'S NO. 2:

San Antonio's David Robinson has a clause in his contract that goes into effect if, as expected, he makes the all-star team this season. It would require he be at least the second highest paid player in the league every season starting in 1992-93 or he becomes a free agent. He makes $2 million this season. Patrick Ewing is the second highest paid at $4.2 million.


Just eight months ago, Michael Jordan scored 69 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So why couldn't he score 100 points against the Denver Nuggets, whose idea of defense is hoping their opponents miss?

"A lot of people are going to be there to see if I can do it," said Jordan, who finished with 38 points in his first meeting Saturday night with Paul Westhead's accelerated game. And they figured to be disappointed, for even Jordan doubted anyone ever would match Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game of 28 years ago.

"I still wonder sometimes how he did it," said Jordan, acknowledging the subject is being raised again to him, as it was March 28 after that Cleveland game. "He couldn't have gone past half court much. There's no way I'd have the stamina to get 100. I don't see how anyone could. Since they started talking about Denver's new style, people have been saying I would score 100. But it's not possible. Physically, I couldn't withstand the beating I'd take running up and down the court 48 minutes."