We’re a little more than 48 hours away from the NBA’s trade deadline, and the New York Post’s Peter Vescey continues to mock the Knicks’ alleged attempts to acquire Orlando’s Steve Francis.

While I’ve always admired Francis’ uncanny ball-handling, elevation and airborne contortions, I wouldn’t want to play with him or anybody like him. As any baller can attest, courts are saturated with similar megalomaniacs who are capable of winning it for both sides if they’re out there long enough. And while they’re pounding the rock silly and hesitating when they finally stop ” trying to decide whether to pass or shoot ” teammates stand around getting angrier and more frustrated by the moment.

Prior to the East’s two-point All-Star victory, Shaquille O’Neal volunteered an assessment of Stevie Disenfranchised to the Orlando Sentinel. He said Magic center Dwight Howard “won’t develop or reach his potential quickly as long as Francis has the ball in his hands.”

So, I ask you, if it’s questionable Howard can mature with Francis as a facilitator, what makes Thomas and Brown think Eddy Curry’s growth won’t be irrevocably stunted waiting in the paint (I predict a league record for 3-second whistles and locker-room confrontations) for Francis and Stephon Marbury to give it up?

On the other hand, Thomas and Francis appear to make a perfect team. Both come with more than their share of monogrammed baggage and both have been known to take off to eyeball the Super Bowl.

In today’s Houston Chronicle, Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy took exception to yesterday’s claims by Vescey that Van Gundy and Houston GM Carroll Dawson are no longer speaking.

“The funny thing was at the time somebody e-mailed it to me, I was talking to Carroll,” Van Gundy said. “I just found it funny. I wasn’t going to bring it up.

“Anonymous (information) like that is the old divide and conquer. I don’t respond to those, but this time I thought I should clear it up. Things like this try to make you defend things that don’t need defending. It’s like (the question), ‘Do you still beat your wife.’ ”

“He (Dawson) doesn’t tell me about every phone call, nor do I want him to,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t run every coaching decision by him. But we make every major decision together. I didn’t wake up one morning and Tracy McGrady was here. I don’t think that happens anywhere.

Looking to make Philadelphia a safer place, the 76ers have unveiled a guns-for-tickets program. I’m hopeful other NBA franchises will follow suit, in particular, New Jersey, where Bruce Ratner’s money-for-tickets scheme has left something to be desired.

All Gilbert Arenas wants is a little respect. Or lunch. Or some more money from Adidas. Or all 3 of those things. But it is kind of amazing that in an advertising climate in which the disabled Amare Stoudemire is the centerpiece of a Nike TV campaign, a major player in the industry could so easily blow off a rising star like Arenas.

The Wizards PG is having a heck of a duel with the T-Wolves Ricky Davis tonight in DC ; 34 points thus far for Arenas with about 6 minutes to go and Washington leading 78-74.