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NBA INSIDER

MAGICAL COACH: New Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello asked NBC broadcast partner Magic Johnson to serve as an assistant, but Johnson said no.

Fratello: "Imagine what it would do, adding a person of his caliber to a coaching staff, just from the respect factor alone."

Johnson said he was flattered: "There are two people I would work for as an assistant. One is Pat Riley. The other is Mike. I told him, though, I couldn't do it. I'm too involved in trying to get a team in Toronto."

Fratello made reference to the offer in an off-hand manner during NBC's telecast Friday of Game 5 of the NBA Finals. After Johnson made a point in the fourth quarter about the Suns' defense, Fratello said, "You know, you'd make a great assistant coach."

NO PROBLEM: Chris Webber apparently isn't too upset with his costly timeout in the final seconds of the NCAA championship game. Webber's father recently acquired a vanity license plate that says "Timeout."

COMING TO AMERICA: Croatian forward Toni Kukoc, 25, got his release from his Italian League team last week and will sign with the Bulls in July. The Bulls drafted Kukoc three years ago and have been romancing him since.

Bulls GM Jerry Krause: "The way I look at it, we were just awarded a high lottery pick."

Kukoc is 6 feet 11 but weighs only 218 pounds; he has an arm span of about 9 feet. Krause said the Bulls will put him on a conditioning and weight-training program once he signs.

Kukoc, considered the best player in the world outside the United States, can play both guard spots and small forward.

THE UNSEEN MAN: 76ers GM Jim Lynam wants BYU center Shawn Bradley in the draft. But Lynam admits to some trepidation, as Bradley hasn't played in two years because of a Mormon mission. Lynam: " "Worried' is not the right word for how I feel. You accept the fact that it'll take a stretch of time for him to get in condition."

SECURITY? The NBA coach with the longest current stint with the same team? It's Washington's Wes Unseld, who has been with the Bullets for five-plus seasons.

THIS AND THAT: Carl Poston, the agent for Memphis State guard Anfernee Hardaway, has told the Bullets, who pick sixth, that his client isn't interested in talking to any team picking lower than fourth. The Bullets will invite UNLV swingman J.R. Rider, Indiana forward Calbert Cheaney and Wake Forest forward Rodney Rogers for private workouts. The Bullets are strongly leaning toward Rider over Cheaney; they think Rogers will be gone. A strong rumor: Pacers guard Pooh Richardson to Dallas for guard Derek Harper. Indiana also is said to have its eye on Sacramento forward Anthony Bonner, a restricted free agent.

A BIG BOOM: Shaquille O'Neal has a seven-year contract with the Magic for about $40-million. Even more impressive is the latest estimate from long-term endorsements: $70-million, with products that include Reebok, Pepsi, Spalding and Kenner Toys, among others.

O'Neal has his own business firm, Management Plus Enterprises, his personalized logo, a signature ball and his own line of clothing. And he's only 21.

"It's been like a thermonuclear explosion," said O'Neal's agent, Leonard Armato, "more than people imagined, I'm sure."

Reebok, O'Neal's most lucrative endorsement, seconds the motion. Reebok signed Shaq to a multi-year contract reportedly worth $20-million.

"(His impact) is absolutely way beyond what anyone expected," Reebok Sports president Roberto Muller said. "We were more lucky than we were smart."

Nike passed on O'Neal because of the belief that centers don't make good endorsers.

THE LAST WORD: Johnson: "I think that Michael (Jordan) is the greatest to ever play because he does things we (he and Larry Bird) didn't even think about. If Larry and I scored two points, they were two points. If Michael scores two points, they could be the greatest two points in the history of basketball."

_ Compiled by Mike Huguenin

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