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NEW YORK — By popular demand, this campground is employing new guidelines for the second half of the season: Making fun is out, making knowledge is in. Any hint of an association between the two is purely accidental.

For example, we’ve learned the Hornets soon may be required to pay the NBA a preset $6 million penalty for failing to attain specified benchmarks incorporated in their re-location (from Charlotte to New Orleans) agreement.

According to two team sources, owners George Shinn and Ray Woolridge are roughly 1,000 season tickets short of the compulsory figure; technically, there’s no wiggle room.

At the same time, I’m informed, the pecuniary punishment is not exactly automatic; deep discussions between the two parties are ongoing. The sense is, the Hornets will almost certainly incur a stiff penalty, but it may not be as severe as originally dictated in the highly classified document.

Considering how much is at stake, it begs to be asked, why don’t the Hornets simply buy enough season tickets to meet the prerequisite in order to dodge the consequence?

“Don’t bother to pursue that line of strategy,” a league official stressed. “We would like to think we’re smarter than you and that we thought about that scenario before you did. But even if we’re only just as smart as you, the loophole was, nonetheless, closed. That tactic would have been far too easy.”

We’ve learned Kobe Bryant has been asked to run the Federal Reserve. The feeling is, he can do more with three quarters than most of us can do with a whole dollar. Averaging a mere 42 points during the Lakers’ current seven-game stroll (51.3 FG pct., while visiting the free-throw line more than 14 times per), Kobe numb-knotted the Nuggets for 51 points before squatting next to Lakers’ assistant coach Tex Winter to chuckle through 12 minutes of trash time.

We’ve learned wherever Gilbert Arenas darts and dashes these days he elicits praise, prompts demotion and leads the Warriors in scoring; six of last eight while sharing salutations once. Apparently over his practice “sick out” after losing Nestle Crunch Time minutes to Earl Boykins, the soph guard has hit for 25 or more points and five assists over the same span, which is why Golden State is still sniffing around the final playoff spot (four game behind Houston) in the West.

The other night in Atlanta, Arenas dominated Jason Terry to such a degree (37 points), coach Terry Stotts benched his second biggest asset (next to Shareef Abdur-Rahim) for all but 22 minutes, including the entire (a career first) fourth quarter. Finishing with a flourish, Arenas — arguably the league’s fastest endline to endline — intercepted Shareef’s lazy inbounds pass with 21 seconds left and sprinted for a tie-breaking, game-winning layup.

“In three years I honestly believe Gilbert will be one of the best point guards in the league,” coach Eric Musselman told me prior to that game. Not a bad endorsement for a second-round choice that arrived in the league last season as an off guard and was ignored by the coaching staff for the first 47 games. Too bad the Warriors won’t reap the reward for providing the opportunity and the showcase.

At season’s end, Arenas will be one of the most sought after (restricted) free agents. Meaning Musselman’s team has no chance to reclaim him. League rules prohibit the Warriors from signing him (or matching) for more than the mid-level ($4.5 million) exception.

Meanwhile, it’s an infallible fact GM Kiki Vandeweghe has been trying to trade for Arenas since the summer before last and his Nuggets can top the Warriors by $2 million-to-$3 million and still have $17 million of cap room to raise the ante should others suitors enter the bidding, as well as recruit a franchise player and more.

We’ve learned the Mavericks, losers of three straight surrounding the All-Star break, have reverted to their “Can’t stop anyone” dirty lowdown ways. Dallas has allowed an average of 110 points per game in defeats to Sacramento, Minnesota and Milwaukee. I don’t know about you, but I took the Mavs more seriously when owner Mark Cuban was dishin’ Dairy Queen.

We’ve learned the Nets must enjoy their mid-season recess more than most. For the second straight season, Lord Byron’s legions have dropped their first two following All-Star festivities. “I enjoy beating the Nets,” said Hubie Brown whose Memphis Militia picked up where the Magic left off.

We’ve learned that Charlotte’s top executive Ed Tapscott, when ready to collaborate with a to-be-named GM to choose a coach, will give the possible hiring of Jeff Van Gundy all the consideration it’s due.

When Shaq jokingly (we hope) said he waited until just before preseason to undergo surgery on his big toe “I injured myself on company time so I got operated on company time,” we’ve learned the Chinese were sufficiently offended.

We’ve learned NBA VP of Operations Stu Jackson was one of ESPN.com’s “sources” on its scandalous story claimed Ron Artest was involved in an Atlanta fight during the All-Star break when, in actuality, he was with his family in Disney World.

We’ve learned TNT’s story that Isiah Thomas arrogantly said, “It’s my team, I’ll do what I want,” when asked why Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce didn’t see much daylight in the All-Star Game was terminally bogus. It’s not so much it’s inaccurate, the conversation never happened.

We’ve learned a Spurs executive was at a recent Nets-Warriors game brandishing a video camera aimed at Jason Kidd.

We’ve learned the report regarding a swap of Alonzo Mourning for Shareef and Nazr Mohammad is completely counterfeit.

We’ve learned Tim Hardaway has asked the Pacers for a tryout. Depending on whether they make any roster moves within the next six days, Donnie Walsh and Thomas plan to set up an audition for Hardaway after the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

Hey, why not? As long as it’s not with Indiana’s broadcast crew.

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