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NEW YORK — Just so there’s no misunderstanding, Ron Artest’s apology to one and all in Pacer Place has been for naught; Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird are committed to trading him as quickly as possible, which isn’t helping them in their pursuit of Al Harrington in a three-way deal.

Sources say Hawks GM Billy Knight is in no hurry to move his rising free agent. That’s true more than ever now that Atlanta is winning and appears to be playing unselfishly.

A Sonic source says Seattle, for all intents and purposes, bailed out of the bidding for Artest when it categorically declined to stuff Nick Collison in the stocking.

After eyeballing Danny Granger for the first time in person, I’m calling out Indiana coach Rick Carlisle (again) for not giving the rookie forward the quality minutes he earned in training camp and the exhibition season. He shouldn’t have had to wait for Artest to be sent to his room to get regular daylight.

All it took was just one look (12 points, 6 rebounds, three fourth-quarter blocks, from a small forward, no less) to comprehend the acreage of Granger’s boundaries. He’s not good, he’s really, really good.

He’s a lethal shooter inside or out; an uncompromising defensive force; quick to find the open man, particularly when that man is hot (Sarunas Jasikevicius) and deadlier than him.

I loved it when Granger got angry at himself for being beaten out by Trevor Ariza for a defensive rebound despite owning position. He instantly atoned for his sin at the other end with an offensive rebound and put back.

No wonder Pacer management isn’t flinching about trading Artest.

Toronto GM Rob Babcock said he had “No regrets, none at all” about giving Vince Carter a new jersey in New Jersey a year ago this past weekend. Carter, you students of Ontario culture shall recall, crossed Rodney Buford customs for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron, Eric and Fly Williams, plus a pair of first-round draft choices.

Apparently, Babcock has been taking full advantage of those cheaper Canadian prescription drugs. The Dinos are a league-worst 6-20, including a perfect home stand in which they lost to Chicago by 11, Golden State by 10 and Philly by 27.

Now I know the reason Pat Riley came back to the bench. It makes it so much easier for the Fourth Estate to fawn over him.

Phrases like “They play for him” and “They have to do it Pat’s way” make me want to toss my Christmas cookies.

Even David Stern genuflected at Riley’s genius when asked if Padre Riles’ return to coaching was good for the league.

If the Raptors want to eradicate Jalen Rose’s $16.9 million salary next season from their cap they have but one viable option — furnish the Knicks with the Nuggets’ No. 1 pick stashed from the Nets’ shoplifting of Vince Carter, along with Rose’s Canadian passport, for rising free agent Penny Hardaway.

Yes, the Lakers have interest in Rose, 33 on Jan. 30. That’s a confirmed fact.

There might even be another team or two intrigued by the swingman’s cultured skill to score, pass and make plays. That’s an unadulterated guess.

Yet, according to a know-it-all scrutinizing Rose’s relocation odds, there isn’t another reckless NBA owner other than James Dolan willing to burden his bulging books with a contract that would cost currently luxury tax-capsized Knicks $33.8 million.

Still, as hopeless as the stammering Knicks look, and as depressed as their fans are, and as desolate as the Garden may become if their 6-18 record gets any shoddier, not even a filthy rich dunce like Dolan is going to hemorrhage that much currency for a player Isiah Thomas ran out of Indiana with Travis Best (reaping Ron Artest, Brad Miller, Ron Mercer and Kevin Ollie), unless the first-round pick is packaged.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if the Raptors are uncompromising. A Toronto source reveals the pick is on the table but not without limits.

“The unanswered question is how deep into the draft will it be protected from year to year?”

The same source doesn’t feel an agreement or ultimate disagreement is imminent.

I’m not so sure that’s accurate.

This just in: The Knicks are such a bad watch, President Bush has no interest in spying on them.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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