NEW YORK — If it helps them to sleep better at night thinking the result of The NBA Finals would be reversed had Karl Malone remained healthy, Laker fans, by all means, are encouraged to dream on.

And if Kobe Bryant wants us to believe the season-ending injury to Horace Grant, whose career curdled the last time he was a Laker, was greatly underestimated we’ll gladly indulge his musing if it comforts him.

Yet, we’re still left with the pitiless truth: The Pistons bought into Larry Brown and the Lakers sold out Phil Jackson.

Detroit’s dizzying championship drive (I haven’t been this excited about the Pistons since they drafted Ben Poquette) was a victory for the game, Brown declared.

His squadron played it selflessly straight and jointly narrow while Jackson’s platoon, especially his polarized pair of superlative soloists, only intermittently stooped to teamwork.

O.J.’s killer instinct and a white superstar aren’t the only things the Lakers lacked.

After Game 5 Shaquille O’Neal bared his team’s egocentric mind-set for all to hear when he stated, “This summer is going to be a different summer for a lot of people. Everyone is going to take care of their own business and everyone is going to do what’s best for them, including me.”

Nothing sums up their noxious/obnoxious behavior better. Nothing is more revealing about how the Laker leaders conducted themselves this season.

In the final analysis, parity prevails; the Pistons, Pacers, Nets, Lakers, Spurs, Kings, Timberwolves, maybe even the Mavericks, all had what it takes — when unimpaired and collectively conforming to coaches’ precepts — to win a title.

This confirms, once and for all, David Stern is a genius “and white,” as Larry Bird reminds us.

Sources, by the way, tell me the despondent denizens of L.A. were all set to leave the city in ruins, again, until they realized their last two governors beat ’em to it, again.

Despite the decisive defeat Kobe Bryant’s confidence remains intact; a victory parade has been scheduled for late summer or early autumn through downtown Eagle, Colo.

So, Karl Malone made the “strictly business” decision of becoming a free agent, even though his agent says if he comes back next season, it’s with the Lakers.

Here’s some unsolicited advice: If you want a ring that badly, just have Kobe cheat on you. Then, allow conscience to finish the job that a change of venue could not.

In a new book, the author claims that 40 percent of players on 2001-02 NBA rosters had police records. Silly me — I had the “over.”

Here’s a shocker: Greek Olympic officials have admitted that costs for the 2004 Summer Games are skyrocketing, and the country could be in debt for many years. I hear it’s become so bad that the Greeks are asking all visiting athletes for help with the bribes.

Oh, yeah, we really need the Olympics here in New York.

After seeing where the Manhattan District Attorney is open to the idea of “medicinal marijuana,” 106 percent of the NBA Players Association has demanded to play for the Knicks.

“We shall have the best Rasta around,” proclaimed Isiah Thomas.

To maintain the balance of power, Stern has invoked a cannabis cap.

Asked about his view on the drug subject, the commissioner said, “I believe in the Larry Brown philosophy — one possession at a time.”

As you’re well aware, University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins pleaded “no contest” to his arrest on a drunken driving charge after visiting recruits in an East Cincinnati suburb.

What you don’t know is why Huggins was drunk; he was toasting his first-ever hoops graduate.

Had Phil Jackson captured his 10th title and moved one ahead of Red Auerbach, President Bush was prepared to come to his house.

Allen Iverson was galled by all the attention paid to Philly’s own Smarty Jones. “Big deal, so he was trying to win three times in five weeks, that was our team’s average last season.”

Only a couple of weeks left to enroll in the Knicks’ summer basketball camp, where your child can teach those all-important fundamentals to his/her favorite player.

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