NEW YORK — At a recent Wizards’ shootaround in Los Angeles, drive-by enforcer Charles Oakley had to be restrained by a chain of coaches and players in mid-pursuit of (temporary) Clipper coach Alvin Gentry. Nearly two weeks later, David Stern’s ruthlessly law abiding NBA has yet to issue so much as an admonishing peep or a snub-nosed punishment.

If I didn’t know better, I would be utterly befuddled.

Flashback: A week before that incident, Indiana Pacers coach Isiah Thomas received a two-game suspension for trying to teach some manners to foulmouthed Raptor Morris Peterson. Shortly before that, Pacers forward Ron Artest was sentenced to four games of racking mothballs as a result of his confrontation with Pat Riley (among other transgressions) after being provoked by Heat assistant coach Keith Askins.

After 17 years as commissioner, you would think Stern would have learned by now how to obscure his lack of neutrality in matters pertaining to the Pacers and Thomas.

Even a little dab of subtly would do.

As long as we’re on the subject, remember when Nets coach Byron Scott and Karl Malone got physical and unflattering with each other? Two years later, and we still haven’t heard a squeal, screech or a squeak of chastisement from the league.

But that was then and that was them. Within the last month or so, Stern has introduced a whole new interpretation for old rules and apparently how specific perpetrators will be closely controlled.

For instance, Jason Kidd was able to flip off fans in Phoenix last year and get away with only a petty fine, whereas Artest got solitary confinement for giving Miami’s minions two fingers up on Jan. 27.

Considering Oakley’s naughtiness occurred Feb. 12 in the year of Stern’s crackdown, how did the guy escape some reproach of some mode or measure?

Having slapped Tyrone Hill and Jeff McInnis at morning workouts in previous seasons, and various others on and off the court (cuffing Charles Barkley during a union meeting was deemed justifiable by unanimous decision), you kind of gather Oak means business if able to get close enough to the objective of his obliteration.

During the All-Star break, the Dean of Discipline harrumphed to the national media about the league’s intolerance for any kind of violent misbehavior. Stern warned, “Anyone who doesn’t get the message, shall be dealt with severely.”

Then the message was promptly erased from his memory bank.

Oakley got away with menacing an opposing coach hours before a game without so much as having his car wash ordered closed early on a rainy afternoon.

Meanwhile, Blazers forward Rasheed Wallace got seven games in the dock for menacing a referee an hour after a game. Which only goes to disprove my untidy theory it’s actually consistency Stern is prejudiced against.

It’s almost inconceivable how fitfully inequitable Stern is from one decision to the next.

How could he have chosen to gloss over Oakley’s outburst? Was he influenced by Gentry’s interview with league investigators? Sources say he went out of his way to low key the ugly episode.

What person in his right mind wouldn’t take that stance?

Gentry’s no fool; he knows the league will protect him as long as he’s gainfully employed, but once he’s fired at the end of the season (just because Oak didn’t kill him, it doesn’t mean we can’t), he’s also fully aware he’s on his own.

The Oak fear factor is real, but Gentry’s reaction runs deeper than that; you can’t have players thinking you turned on one of them (right or wrong, P.J. Carlesimo will never be an NBA head coach again, it says here, because of the ugliness that resulted between him and Latrell Sprewell), or those doing the hiring looking at you funny when you’re in the hunt for a high-paying job.

Gentry is smart to have shrugged off Oakley’s attempted assault. Stern’s infinite wisdom is becoming infinitely more erratic judgment by judgment.

The Knicks returned home Tuesday to face the beast of the Far East (Yao Ming to you and yours) after spitting the bit out West. The Knicks dropped the final four games of their six-game trip and not even a guarantee from Glen Sather is going to backdoor them into this year’s playoffs.

“I still like our chances,” Cablevision and Knicks’ CEO James Dolan declared.

Don Chaney’s chances, on the other hand, have been downgraded.

Instead of giving his coach another contract extension, he slipped him an illegal cable box.

Kobe Bryant’s franchise record ninth straight game with at least 40 points (13 with at least 35) helped the Lakers whip the Sonics, their 11th victim in 13 games to take over seventh place in the West. Good thing, because the league is prepared to expand the playoff field from 16 to 64 in order to get L.A. some postseason prime time.

Personally, I don’t see the big deal about Bryant’s streak. My Roach Clips, who entertained the Lakers at home (or is it an away game?) last night, have scored at least 40 points in all 55 of their games this season.

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