(above : Kevin Durant, Saturday night in Austin.  Not shown : stretch limo, “bling”, weapons cache)

As cancellation of the 2011-2012 NBA season looms, the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick hopes to help “avoid the as-seen-on-TV public relations fiasco that the NBA Player’s Association brought on itself during the 1998,” with a laundry list of tips (“no more $-sign tattoos until the CBA is approved,” “before entering negotiations or union briefings, put all guns on safety,”). Here’s a few more  highlights ;

1) Don’t be seen in public arriving anywhere in a stretch limo. A simple town car should be sufficient.
2) Keep all bling and blazz to a minimum — even hidden from view if the pieces are less than the size of a pizza. And instead of arriving at negotiations — or anywhere else around town — wearing five-karat diamond earrings, you can’t go wrong with the simple gold studs
3) Reduce public ridicule by assiduously avoiding any Latrell Sprewell-type comments/tweets/texts about NBA team owners trying to “take food off my family’s plates.” And lose all analogies that would compare NBA team owners with pre-Civil War plantation owners and the players with slaves. Go with the minimum-wage analogies, instead.

I’m not sure I’ve seen such a succession of tired, spoiled-player stereotypes trotted out since the Criterion Collection edition of “Juwanna Mann”. Surely an avid follower of sports news such as Phil is already aware the union is pretty serious about avoiding the bad press they received in ’98 (“Public Relations a Concern as N.B.A. Millionaires Spar”, Howard Beck, New York Times, August 28, 2011)? Have we seen many gratuitous displays of wealth since the lockout began? Just last night, Kevin Durant — a big a contemporary star as anyone not named LeBron or Kobe — was seen on the sidelines of the Rice/Texas game wearing a modest ensemble consisting of a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers.

It would be nothing short of age discrimination to say Mushnick is a tad out of touch with modern fashions, but if he’s gonna continue to harp on tattoos and guns, I certainly hope Eric Hinske and Luke Scott find themselves under as much scrutiny as the NBA’s rank & file. In the meantime, we have the Post columnist mocking those athletes who might be a little vain, while alternately, dumping on the likes of Jose Reyes for lacking the professionalism to show up for a TV appearance looking like…who exactly, Tom Brady?