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STERN NEEDLES KARL

Commissioner David Stern defended the league's record on hiring black coaches and lightheartedly questioned what Milwaukee coach George Karl was thinking when he made comments about Orlando's Doc Rivers.

In a magazine article, Karl complained that one of his assistants was being passed over for head-coaching jobs while Rivers had been "anointed" a good coach. Karl later apologized to Rivers and called his comments "stupid."

The commissioner agreed.

"I don't know what was in George's drink that day," Stern said. "I don't know what was in the water. George is a pretty bright guy."

HORNETS: If the team moved to New Orleans from Charlotte, one of the team's co-owners would "love nothing more" than to reacquire the Jazz nickname.

"There's no better description for the team down there than the Jazz," co-owner Ray Wooldridge said. "I'd certainly be excited about that opportunity."

Obtaining the nickname would require an agreement between Charlotte and Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller. Miller didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

The Jazz moved to Salt Lake City from New Orleans in 1979, though the team's nickname didn't change.

NETS: Forward Kenyon Martin, who has been suspended four times this season because of physical play, met with NBA officials to lessen concerns that he's being singled out by the referees.

"We wanted to point out that we felt Kenyon was being treated differently than other players," said Martin's agent, Brian Dyke, who attended the hourlong meeting at NBA headquarters in New York. "We just feel that when it's a borderline call, he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt."

Team president Rod Thorn and players' union officials, including executive director Billy Hunter, joined Martin at the meeting. Deputy commissioner Russ Granik and senior vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson, who hands down suspensions and fines, represented the league.

The 24-year-old Martin recently was forced to sit out two games because he had exceeded the league's limit on flagrant foul points. Martin has seven, two more than allowed.

NUGGETS: Forward Antonio McDyess was placed on the injured list with swelling in his left knee. He'll have to sit out at least five games and won't be eligible to return until March 30 in Chicago.

McDyess had surgery in October to repair a partially torn tendon in the knee and missed the first 54 games. In 10 games this season, McDyess has averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.6 minutes.

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