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May 20, 1997|ARA NAJARIAN

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "This Game's the Best!

So Why Don't They Quit

Screwing With It?"

By George Karl with Don Yaeger .

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Price: $23.95

If it seems odd that Seattle SuperSonic Coach George Karl has a book out when he hasn't won and NBA title yet, it probably is.

Karl is a bright and seemingly honest coach who does offer some good insight to the NBA at times. He's not afraid to speak his mind on what's wrong with players or coaches in the league. The writing is clean, simple and straightforward, which makes one wonder what collaborator Don Yaeger's role was--to edit and clean, or to embellish?

But for pro basketball junkies like me, it still is a book that has some rewards.

The best moments in the book mostly come from Karl's friendly exchanges with the players such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. But he has plenty of criticisms too. He says Shaquille O'Neal, for instance, is dangerous--to his opponent and the Lakers, that O'Neal is impossible to guard one on one, but he has yet to find the championship spirit, has yet to learn basketball is a game of heart as much as skill.

Karl also goes on at length about the deterioration of today's young players, who come into the game with attitude and entirely lacking discipline, unselfishness and a sense of cohesiveness. "Some of these young players don't care about fundamentals," he says. "They only care about highlight reels." Spoken like a true coach.

One thing seems odd. The title of the book refers to a great game that doesn't need to be tinkered with--but Karl dedicates Chapter 12 to changes that he thinks would fix the game.

He's got some radical ideas. Karl thinks the NBA has way too many mediocre teams, and he has a possible fix for that: Europe. In European basketball, the bottom teams at the end of the season are dropped down a division for the next season. Karl likes the idea of dropping the bottom five or six NBA teams to the CBA. Thin out the league.

Interesting concept, but there's about as much chance of that happening as the SuperSonics winning the NBA title this year.

And, like many books of this genre, this one will seem outdated by next season. Now that the SuperSonics are out of the playoffs again, maybe even sooner.

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