NEW YORK — The NBA has answered one of the burning questions of the ages: How long is forever?
By the reckoning of the commissioner's office and the Players Assn. it is roughly two years.
When Lewis Lloyd and Mitchell Wiggins of the Houston Rockets were banned from the league for testing positively for cocaine, Commissioner David Stern said: "Accordingly, under the anti-drug agreement between the NBA and its Players Association, Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis LLoyd are permanently disqualified from playing in our league."
The Anti-Drug Program hammered out by the league and Players Assn. in September of 1983 indeed states that "any player who either is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, a crime involving the use or distribution of heroin or cocaine" or who tests positively for either of the two illegal substances "shall immediately be permanently dismissed from the league."
The kicker is the next sentence which states: "Such player may, however, appeal for reinstatement after two years, requiring the approval both of the Commissioner and the Players Assn."
Thus, though Stern claims the penalty is lifetime, it in fact can be rescinded in two years. Micheal Ray Richardson, who was banned "permanently" last year, will find out if permanent is in the neighborhood of two years when he applies next year to be reinstated. John Drew was also banned last season, but he has since been sentenced to six months for buying cocaine.
--The NBA anti-drug program will be among the issues under discussion when the league and Players Association meet next month to begin negotiations for a new basic agreement.
However, that will not be the hottest topic. Larry Fleisher, the head of the Players Association, claims that eliminating the college draft, salary caps, right of first refusal and anything that limits movement of players will be the union's position in the negotiations.
NBA General Counsel Gary Bettman called Fleisher's pre-talk position rhetoric.
--Despite being without center Bill Walton and forward Scott Wedman virtually the entire season, the Boston Celtics are not far behind their pace of a year ago.
Through 34 games, the Celtics lost 10 times. A year ago, Boston was 26-8 after 34 games.
"We can't be much better than this with all the injuries we have," Coach K.C. Jones said. "To only lose 10 is very, very good at this point of the season."
The full effect of the injuries to Walton and Wedman may not be felt until later in the season, when Boston's starters could wear down because they have been forced to play so many minutes with the depleted bench.
--Indiana's Michael Brooks is hard to find even with a program. The forward joined the Pacers at the start of 1987 to replace injured Ron Anderson. In his first game, he wore 00. During a four-game road-trip, Brooks was given jersey No. 15. When the Pacers returned home to play Philadelphia Jan. 13, the former LaSalle starter was on the bench wearing No. 7. He responded with six points and four rebounds against the 76ers.
--The New York Knicks could have used some of the defensive prowess of Lawrence Taylor, the Super Bowl-bound linebacker of the New York Giants, Jan. 13 against Rolando Blackman of the Dallas Mavericks. Blackman burned the Knicks for 41 points, 22 of which he scored in the first quarter.
Taylor, who earlier that day accepted the award as the NFL's Most Valuable Player, received the loudest ovation of the night when he appeard courtside for the game in the second quarter. The Knicks lost the game 108-103, snapping a six-game home winning streak. Taylor's next game is Jan. 25 against the Denver Broncos in the Rose Bowl.
--Blackman, the Mavericks' 6-foot-6 shooting guard, provides a good barometer of success for Dallas. When he is scoring they win. As of Jan. 13, in games where he scored over 30 points the Mavericks were 35-7.
Blackman's 41-points against the Knicks elicited this comment from Coach Dick Motta: "When Rolando doesn't shoot the ball well, we're in a slump. When he shoots like this we seldom lose."