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The pending sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA franchise to a New Orleans group for $152 million caused Dave Checketts, president of the New York Knicks, to reflect on a client he represented 11 years ago who turned down a deal to purchase the Boston Celtics for $23 million.

"In 1983 that was just too much money," said Checketts. "That's what my client felt and I felt that way too.""On the other hand," added Checketts. "(Future NBA commissioner) David Stern thought we were crazy not to spend the $23 million. It just goes to show you who had the vision."

OVERKILL: Political correctness, and pity, are the reasons Texas governor Ann Richards said she did not enter into a traditional governor's wager with New York governor Mario Cuomo over the NBA Finals series between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knickerbockers.

The Texas governor said she felt sorry for Cuomo after beating him in the Super Bowl the past two years in a row.

"I've beaten Cuomo so badly on the Cowboys that I think he was a little shy, so I didn't press him on the Rockets," she said.

THANKS BUT NO THANKS: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will be among the specially invited contestants at the U.S. Open this week at the Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. Thirty-two years ago, when Palmer was 32 and the king of golf and Nicklaus was a 22-year-old newcomer on the PGA Tour, they met at Oakmont in an 18-hole playoff for the 1962 U.S. Open title. Nicklaus prevailed, 71-74, to capture the first of his 18 majors.

Palmer was the favorite that day and, in a graciousness that would decline in later years as their rivalry intensified, he offered to split the purse with Nicklaus.

"Arnold came up to me on the putting green and asked if I wanted to split the purse," Nicklaus told the Associated Press this week. "I thought it was very nice of him, very thoughtful. He was being nice to the new kid."

But Nicklaus declined.

"No, I don't think so. Let's play for it," Nicklaus responded . . . and the competition began.

MORE NOSTALGIA: Also among the special invitees at Oakmont will be Johnny Miller, 46, whose "63 in 73" remains one of the most memorable rounds in the history of golf.

Considered a non-factor on the final day of the 1973 U.S. Open at Oakmont, Miller teed off well before the leaders and recorded his nine-under-par 63 in relative obscurity. He spent nearly four hours in the clubhouse to see if he would be caught. He wasn't.

QUICK IMPORT: If you're a runner and you're passed in the near future by a particularly compact, lean person anywhere in the greater Salt Lake vicinity, it's a good possibility that you'll have been passed by Lucketz Swartbooi, the No. 3 ranked marathoner in the world and, as of this week, a resident of Utah.

The 28-year-old Swartbooi is a native of Namibia, the country in southern Africa liberated a little over three years ago from South Africa. His agent is Utahn Bob Wood, the chairman of USA Track & Field long distance running, who influenced Swartbooi to locate in Utah, the adopted home of yet another Namibian track & field hero, Olympic silver medalist sprinter Frank Fredericks.

Swartbooi finished second in the marathon in the 1993 world championships and was third at the 1993 Boston Marathon. This year he finished eighth in Boston with a time of 2:09:08.

"Most experts in the sport consider Swartbooi to be one of the most talented marathon runners they've ever seen, and he's only been running for about five years," says Wood of the 5-foot-7, 110-pound runner. "If you see him, don't run over him," his agent added. "He's got a bright future."

GETTING FASTER: Another local runner in the passing lane is Celsa Kidman, the former Alta High and University of Utah runner, who set a personal best in the 10K Sunday at the Union-Tribune 10K race in San Diego. Running the course in 32:12, Kidman easily won the women's division as she bettered the course record by 57 seconds.

The budding Olympian - she was fourth at last year's U.S. cross-country championships and won the Las Vegas half-marathon a couple of months ago -- is also represented by Wood. "Don't run over her, either," he said.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Danny Ainge, at the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Classic, on playing golf with Phoenix Suns teammate Charles Barkley: "I love to play with Charles. He's very wealthy . . . and he thinks he's better than he really is."