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IS AINGE COMING BACK? JAZZ WON'T SAY

Although the Jazz and Phoenix Suns will be making the NBA's maiden trip to Japan for a regular-season game, the league isn't exactly going to be new to the Orient.

The 1990 NBA finals are being broadcast to Japan - and 75 other countries, too. Vacationing in Barbados? You can catch the games on Caribbean Broadcast Company. Planning a coup? You can see Isiah and Co. on Canal Dos., S.A., in El Salvador or Channel 2 in Panama. Searching for the Lost City? M2 in Morocco or T&T TV Co. in Trinidad/Tobago will try to convince you you that the NBA is, in any language, Faaaan-tastic!Ironically, two countries that won't see the finals are among those with a vested interest. Nigeria, which brought us Akeem the Dream Olajuwon, and the Soviet Union, which produced Sarunas Marciulionis, won't be bringing the games home.

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MVP II: Although he garnered more first-place votes than anyone else in the official NBA MVP balloting, Charles Barkley finished well behind Magic Johnson for the award. But wait. Somebody is giving Barkley respect.

The Sporting News has named Barkley the league's top player. Barkley, in balloting by 180 NBA players, beat out runner-up Magic Johnson for Player of the Year honors.

Jazz star Karl Malone joined Barkley on the first team, as did New York's Pat Ewing, L.A.'s Johnson and Chicago's Michael Jordan.

Rookie of the Year was San Antonio's David Robinson.

Malone finished sixth in the voting.

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PLAYING FOR, UH, PEANUTS: If you don't think pride is the main ingredient in winning the NBA title, consider this: The winning team gets only $410,000. It may sound like a lot, but spread among 12 players, it figures out to about $34,500 apiece. By comparison, Karl Malone makes roughly $22,000 per game during the regular season.

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THOSE OLD FAMILIAR FACES: In case you were wondering whatever happened to Bart (Bonecrusher) Kofoed, word drifting up out of something called the World Basketball League is that he is there, playing for the Memphis Rockers.

The league features players 6-foot-5 and under. It has teams in Memphis; Las Vegas; Saskatchewan; Calgary; Erie, Pa.; Youngstown, Ohio; Springfield, Ill.; Italy; Spain; Russia; Finland; and Belgium.

There are other familiar names, as well as Kofoed's. The Rockers have employed two Salt Lakers: Tom Nissalke, ex-Jazz coach, is head coach, and Tom Steinke, former Westminster basketball coach, is an assistant. Nissalke is reportedly in line to become an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets at the end of the WBL season, in August.

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AND ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE . . .: Now that Danny Ainge has reportedly told Sacramento Coach Dick Motta that he wants to be traded, one of the obvious possibilities is a return to Utah, where he played college ball at BYU.

The nine-year veteran apparently saw the chances of a championship in Sacramento as hopeless.

Ainge's name appeared two years ago when he was reportedly being considered by the Jazz. And, with the Jazz looking for good shooting guards, he seems a possibility again. Predictably, the Jazz aren't commenting on the matter. Other names that have been rumored to be trade possibilities are Ainge's teammate Rodney McCray and Indiana guard George McCloud.

"It's tough to comment on players on other teams. For us to comment about Ainge is not fair to us and it's not fair to the Sacramento Kings," said Jazz Director of Player Personnel Scott Layden. "We don't comment on the players and trades."

Ainge was unavailable for comment.