Butch Beard is doomed in New Jersey.

The Nets' coach inherited a team of babies and head-cases, and since it doesn't appear he can get rid of them, chances are he'll be the guy sacrificed.In the most recent incident, Beard was going over a scouting report during practice when he noticed that Chris Morris' shoelaces were loosened. Beard chewed him out and demanded that Morris be dressed professionally the next day. Morris, already sulking over other matters, went to general manager Willis Reed and asked to be traded.

The next day, Beard benched Morris for the first time of his career. He also benched Dwayne Schintzius for boycotting practice. And he started Armon Gilliam at center because Benoit Benjamin missed practice with food poisoning, an excuse he has already used several times.

"Chris Morris will play for me when Chris Morris makes a commitment to play hard, OK?" Beard said. "The guy doesn't come dressed properly to work. What am I supposed to do, give him 50 minutes? Dwayne decided that since he wasn't playing, he was going to boycott practice."

Schintzius, who has played 33 minutes all year, asked if he was sending a message to Beard: "Sending a message? I might as well be sending a message to Ray Charles. Let me get this straight: I didn't play tonight because I overslept. What did I do wrong the other 17 times? Not comb my hair right?" (I've seen your hair, Dwayne. That would be legit.)

Morris still wants to be traded. "As soon as they can get it done, I'm ready," he said. "If Butch doesn't want me on his squad, make it easy for me and move me on. I'm tired of small forwards busting my butt and I can't get back at them. How come I went from being a threat last year to a guy who isn't being used?"

Nice to see Larry Johnson showing a sense of what's important recently. The Charlotte Hornets' forward missed his team's 101-95 loss to Houston, choosing instead to be with his wife, Celeste, for the birth of Larry Jr.

Johnson said he was urged by some in the organization to return to Houston for the game (the child was born Wednesday, the game was Thursday), but he chose otherwise.

"I'm glad I did it this way," Johnson said. "It's something y'all need to go through. It puts life into perspective."

Anyone out there surprised by the Tarpley-Motta feud in Dallas? The latest word is that the Mavs are trying to swap Tarpley and his $3 million per year guaranteed salary, but only the Clippers have a big enough slot under the salary cap, and apparently even they aren't that dumb. In the meantime, Tarpley says he'll "take his medicine like a man" (that will be a first) and show up for the team's West Coast trip.

Miami's Billy Owens, a former Warrior teammate of Chris Webber, offers some support for Webber's account of life in Golden State. Owens said coach Don Nelson talks to players "like they're little boys." He accused Nelson of humiliating Warriors center Victor Alexander, who battles constant weight problems, during practices. "He was calling him a fat pig in front of the rest of the players," Owens said. "We didn't think that was right for him to be doing that."

Before he was traded to Miami, Owens heard he was going to Minnesota for rookie Donyell Marshall. He confronted Nelson. "He told me he was going to trade me because he heard I was unhappy there," Owens said. "I found that a little strange because he didn't call me or my agent or talk to me."

Owens said he was told that Nelson asked Latrell Sprewell to remove Owens' and Webber's old Warriors' numbers from the back of his shoe, where Sprewell has had them written since his buddies left. Sprewell apparently refused.

With few scoring threats on the Cavaliers, guard Mark Price is attracting a lot of defensive attention. The result: He's on a 6-game stretch of shooting less than 30 percent from the field, a stretch when he's averaged less than 12 points.

"It's been tough on me," Price said. "I knew that teams were going to come at me and try to force some of our other guys to step up. They know our situation. They're not stupid. I haven't been able to get many good looks at the basket."

Price still has the support of his coach Mike Fratello, however. Said coach: "I think he's done a terrific job for us. It's not like he's not shooting well and not contributing anywhere else to us. He is helping create scoring opportunities for other people. I'm sure this is eating him up, though, because he is such a competitor."

From the quote file: After a win last Saturday moved Motta past Jack Ramsay into third place on the all-time list, with 865, Motta said: "I better give the players all the credit, because I'm d--- sure going to make sure they take all the blame when we lose."

- Clippers coach Bill Fitch, after a 48-point loss to Portland: "If there is anyone in that locker room who doesn't think we stunk, they have Robert Parish's number for an IQ." Parish wears 00.

- Gilliam, a former Charles Barkley teammate at Philadelphia, on Barkley's plan to become governor of Alabama: "Considering the politicians and the way they conduct themselves, he might fit right in."

- And, finally, Barkley himself, and if anyone can explain this quote to me, I'd appreciate it: "The majority of poor people and minorities always vote Democratic. That's why they're poor, and their options are limited."