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NEW YORK — Losing Erick Dampier to the Mavericks might look as if it’s minimized the Knicks’ odds of accomplishing something meaningful this season and maximized Dallas’ chances of winning the West, but there’s a little-known overcast medical fact about him that might diminish New Yorkers’ depression.

The company that insures Mavericks players feels Dampier’s thrice-surgically-repaired knees are too risky to cover apropos to a specific injury; it’s called an exclusion pertaining to a pre-existing condition.

Meaning the company is not liable to pick up the normal 80 percent of the team’s $72 million tab, confirms Mark Cuban by e-mail, should the 29-year-old become disabled throughout his six-year deal due to that specific knee injury. Or until the Mavs can prove the previous injury has healed, “which we hope is this year,” stresses the Mavericks’ maverick.

Then again, maybe Knicks fans aren’t depressed enough, as the team’s trip out West mightily reflects. Don’t look now, but Lenny Wilkens’ road rascals may have wasted some of their best in-season labor pain during the preseason.

Friday night’s 20-point loss to the Timberwolves in the hoops hotbed of Sioux Falls, S.D., was Camp Cablevision’s third in as many games — and closest margin of defeat. Isiah Thomas’ legions previously lost by 38 in Dallas and 24 at Salt Lake City.

Despite encouraging comments from several players involved in the challenge to orchestrate a new collective bargaining agreement before the start of next season is seriously threatened, a member of the NBA’s negotiating committee is nothing but discouraging.

Declining to divulge any details, the league leak would only say the players’ union is being utterly unrealistic (the word “outrageous” was often repeated) in its demands and reluctance to compromise.

Commissioner David Stern and the owners are being perfectly accommodating and reasonable, of course.

If you haven’t figured out why the Clippers failed to match the Suns’ relatively edible offer sheet ($48 million for six years) to Quentin Richardson and instead replaced him with declining free agent Kerry Kittles, whose fragile right knee again is hurting for certain, the answer is Corey Maggette. For the good of everyone concerned, the warring warlords had to be separated, relates an unstapled observer.

Richardson’s got his, and now Joe Johnson wants that and more, either from Phoenix now, or from someone else when he becomes a restricted free agent come July 1. According to a source, the Suns’ significant scorer (16.7 per game last season) who also can rebound and pass, appears to be inflexible regarding his $10 million per year demand.

No Sonic is more beloved in Seattle than Nate McMillian. Been that way for almost 20 years, the last four as head coach. Which largely explains management’s logic for trying to extend his contract.

That many previous and present players don’t consider McMillian to be plausibly competent apparently is irrelevant to the decision makers. It’s safe to assume if McMillian remains a Seattle fixture, Ray Allen won’t re-sign, submits a Sonic subject.

Anyone lucky to be playing in the NBA or working for it is overpaid. That’s my educated position.

Then there are those said affiliates who are obscenely overpaid; Latrell Sprewell, for example. The free-agent-in-waiting is on the Wolves’ bloated books this season for $14.625 million and earnestly believes he shouldn’t take as much as a penny pay cut over the next three years from Minnesota or any team.

In his twisted view, Sprewell evidently thinks he’s salaried on the cheap. In his warped analysis, he feels he deserves a raise (as if he wasn’t sufficiently overly rewarded last season at $13.5 million), for providing effective effort and pressure points playing off MVP Kevin Garnett and helping lead his franchise past the first round (deep into the third) for the first time in its history.

Should T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor refuse to considerably upgrade his “insulting” three-year offer (in the $30 million vicinity) before commencement exercises Nov. 3, Sprewell vows to forever flee Minnesota at season’s end.

Well, I’ve got news for Sprewell: at 35 going into next season he’s not going to get such a warm financial response from any other team. Not that he isn’t dreadfully experienced in running amok in such minefields and plundering them.

Still, forcing this particular issue, it says here, will prove to be a calculably, uncorrectable error.

Finding a $15 million plus taker for his over-ripened services?

I can’t envision that happening. Sprewell would have a better second chance of squeezing blood from a stoned P.J. Carlesimo.

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