NEW YORK — Nothing launches a campaign quite like Tim Duncan — commonly identified as the league’s most wholesome player — branding David Stern’s dress code as “retarded.”

You now have an inkling why Duncan tends to be uncommunicative; it conceals his lack of sensitivity and smarts.

Plainly, between Duncan and Ron Artest free speech is grossly overrated.

Stern must find the following fascinating; while he’s attempting to dress up his league’s image Artest, fresh from a 73-game suspension for invading The Palace stands, is the latest to pose naked above the shoulders (surrounded by three scantily clad women) in a magazine that markets undress, and then goes on babbling about fighting Ben Wallace for $10 million on pay-per-view.

Artest has become the media’s most effortlessly exploitable person in the NBA.

Like Dennis Rodman and Micheal Ray Richardson, anybody can get Artest to say anything at any time. Getting him to open up and bare his unsophisticated soul is as easy as offering him a Popsicle.

Byron Scott denounced my trade report last week regarding Jamaal Magloire.

The Hornets’ coach said I have “no clue what I’m talking about anything and have never had a clue.”

I’m beginning to develop a whole newfound respect for Scott.

(Magloire was traded to Toronto on Thursday).

By the way, when does Stern announce his new soft core dress code for team cheerleaders?

Last week at the Garden, Larry Brown sat in a suite and turned the team over to Herb Williams. It’s one of his many seasonal rituals.

The Knicks got beaten badly by the 76ers.

A fan sitting on the lower level was incensed.

“With the bleepin’ prices they charge for preseason games, you would think the Knicks would at least insist their $11 million coach handle the home games. If your gonna let your intern coach an exhibition game let him coach the team at Dallas or San Antonio.”

You never hear Donnie Walsh tout one of his young players, but he’s not holding back this time. The Pacers’ CEO stamps Danny Granger a “tougher version of Scottie Pippen.”

Maybe it’s the 203-cm rookie’s penchant for pounding the boards; almost every night 10 or more that complement his double figure scoring.

Or maybe it’s his uncompromising defense against centers, power forwards, small forwards and off guards. Minnesota’s heralded Rashad McCants, who hits tough shots like he means to make ’em, was killing all comers until last week when Indiana coach Rick Carlisle put Granger on the rookie.

That was the end of trespassing into the paint off the dribble.

“Danny’s head and heart are in every play,” Walsh gushes.

Last year at this time Elton Brand was in terrible shape. This year is exactly the opposite . . . Terry Cummings’ Atlanta house burned down last week, but according to his former agent, Tom Collins, he remains upbeat.

Dress code aside, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called for everyone in the league to be conscious of acting professionally, according to the Boston Globe.

“The bottom line is what we have to keep improving is how we act,” said Rivers. “We have to do a better job in that, all of us. When we carry ourselves in a professional manner every day, all of us, then clothes will not be a factor.”

Celtics’ guard Tony Allen was charged with aggravated battery from a fight outside a Chicago diner two months ago. Seems he had the nerve to cut in front of Oprah on the dessert line.

The world lost a beautiful person last week.

Willie Sojourner, 58, died when his car hit a tree early in the morning in Rieti, Italy, where he had been coaching for the last month. Apparently the former ABA center fell asleep at the wheel.

Outside of the unforgettable Dick Motta, who coached the Washington Bullets to the 1978-79 NBA title, Sojourner was Weber State’s most treasured gift to professional basketball.

He was the school’s all-time leading rebounder and its fourth-leading scorer, dominating the Big Sky Conference for three seasons.

However, his most inspired, if not essential contribution to the game occurred during his rookie season with the Virginia Squires when he rambunctiously roamed the ABA alongside another first year player, Julius Erving.

Both were traded two years later (prior to the 1973-74 season) to the Nets for George Carter and cash.

At any rate, Sojourner deserves full credit for completing Julius’ nickname soon after they initially hooked up.

A sideline announcer at Harlem’s Rucker Tournament had begun referring to Erving as “The Doctor” that summer — when he went to the hoop over or around his defender “the operation was a success, the patient died.”

Sojourner tightened up the nickname to Dr. J.

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