CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On NBA all-star weekend, the state of the supernova is anything but peaceful. The franchise player, the first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is in danger of extinction.

Larry Bird and his ailing back are at home. It's nice to be an all-star, but if you're the Celtics it's better to have the Birdman upright in June when the Pistons and Bulls come calling. Speaking of the Pistons, Isiah Thomas and his injured wrist are at home. Houston's Akeem Olajuwon and his broken face are at home. Philadelphia's Charles Barkley wanted to keep his sore ankle at home, but a league desperate for marquee stars told Sir Charles he'd better play.

Well, maybe "told" is a bit strong. "Strongly urged," Barkley said.

Not everybody is in the infirmary. But even the stars who are here are involved in their own mini-dramas. NFL coaches would call these "distractions."

When we last left Magic Johnson, the team physician was trying to determine the extent of his amnesia, suffered after a head kick during a game against the Bulls. Not that Johnson knew the Lakers were playing the Bulls, mind you. When asked if he knew his name, Magic passed with flying colors. But when pressed for the name of the opponent, he answered, "We're playing a game?"

Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing know who they are, but they wish their respective general managers, Jerry Krause and Al Bianchi, would forget just long enough for them to become the first player/general managers in league history.

Jordan has caused a ruckus in Chicago by saying publicly what he has said privately for a couple of seasons: that the Bulls would be better off with him as GM. Of course, he's right. Ewing hasn't said that, exactly, but he was leaning so far in that direction Saturday his shoulder was parallel to the ground.

A conversation here during preliminary all-star festivities with Jordan and Joe Dumars simply confirmed what Ewing already knew. "Joe just said how two years ago we {Knicks} were right there, how all we needed was a couple of players and we could get over that hump. But unfortunately, especially this year, it's been a downhill slide. We just fell off the wall. Instead of climbing the wall, we fell over. It's frustrating."

The faint sound of conspiratorial laughter you hear is coming from Capital Centre, where every additional goof-up by New York management could be the last straw, the one that breaks Ewing's back and leads him to say: "You guys have had your chance, I'm not re-signing here."

Three weeks ago, I had a fantasy that Ewing would leave New York either before next season or the one after that and become a Bullet. With every humiliating loss and every failure to acquire a player who can help win, it becomes less a fantasy and more a reality that Ewing will not finish his career in New York.

"We've got to pick up the pieces for what part of the season we do have left," he said today of his 20-27 team. "It's no fun right now. We're not playing well, we're not winning. Sometimes you're trying so hard you try too hard and instead of helping, you're hurting."

So this is all-star weekend for Ewing and Jordan, to play with the guys their GMs couldn't acquire.

There might be a lesson to be learned here for Krause and Bianchi. If you own the Bulls or Knicks and it comes down to a power struggle, who do you keep, Ewing or Bianchi? Jordan or Krause, a man nicknamed (by a particular Bull) "Crumbs" in honor of the frequent state of the front of his suit.

The NBA is the only sport where one player bears the responsibility of getting his team a championship, more so than the coach or GM. Nobody will remember that the Bulls didn't win a title. We'll remember that Jordan didn't or Barkley didn't or Ewing didn't.

It's never been substantiated, but the story has always been that Magic acted as GM back in the early '80s and forced owner Jerry Buss to get rid of coach Paul Westhead. The Lakers went on to win four more titles under Pat Riley.

Thomas still denies he forced Adrian Dantley to be traded for his buddy Mark Aguirre. If Thomas believes that, he is the only one. The Pistons probably would have won with Dantley, but the only thing we know for sure is that they won twice with Aguirre.

Ewing says he was stunned when the Knicks didn't match Charlotte's offer sheet to keep Johnny Newman. Jordan is particularly irate over Krause's inability twice over to get Walter Davis -- who wound up in Portland -- or another veteran shooter. (If we're taking sides here, I'm with the player/GMs. Ewing and Jordan aren't simply engaging in hindsight criticism; they pleaded beforehand.) And by the way, Barkley is stoking his own rumblings. Asked about making his teammates better, like Magic and Bird, Barkley said something to the effect of, "Who do you think it's easier to make better, James Worthy or Jayson Williams?"

These new player/GMs aren't just prepared to make deals; they'll take salary cuts if necessary, defer payments until the next century. "I just want to win a championship," Ewing said, defending his position.

While the supernovas are coming off injuries or various personal funks, the league celebrates the return of Bernard King, the ascension of Tim Hardaway (the new Isiah) and dunkmaster Shawn Kemp (the new Darryl Dawkins).

A league that only 10 years ago depended almost entirely on the welfare of Magic and Bird now is so healthy, stocked with so many stars, injured or not, there is talk of having two All-Star Games, justifiably.