Philadelphia fell victim to 18 points from Zach Randolph (above) last night, in dropping an 81-79 decision to Portland, the 3rd consecutive game missed by the estranged Allen Iverson. Though we’ve heard nothing conclusive about A.I.’s ultimate destination, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey is pretty certain he’s not headed for Madison Square Garden.

Let’s dismiss, hopefully for the last time, any fantasies about the Knicks obtaining Iverson in any kind of deal that does or doesn’t include Chris Webber. They are not, I repeat, any kind of participant in this situation.

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn Isiah Thomas is prohibited by Camp Cablevision boss James Dolan from cooking up any catastrophes that would cost the Knicks additional obligations past their current long-term luxury hole, or hamstring his eventual replacement any more than he’ll be.

The Bobcats, flaunting $13-to-$14 millions in prized cap space, are attempting to play facilitator for the 76ers. Management adamantly refuses to part with a single one of its precious young bloods, even Brevin Knight. Despite getting sacked 15 of 20 times, the third-year expansion franchise wisely is preaching patience and, at the same time, is prepared to assume a salary for a season (not Iverson’s, though) for the right compensation – solid player, draft pick, money or all of the above.

That’s one option, a rather critical one, for Sixers president Billy King. It allows him to get several teams into the mix. That type of transaction, of course, could translate into Philly obtaining more attractive pieces than it can if only one team is involved.

“I don’t know who’s putting this stuff out there,” a team executive groaned in exasperation. “But it all forces me to call Chris Mullin.”

There’s another Vescey column in Tuesday’s Post, one almost exclusively devoted to dumping on Jim Gray and mocking Stephen A. Smith’s recent willingness to criticize Iverson (“you know for sure a hero is about to get knocked off the pop charts when his main media lapdog bites the hand that’s fed him so many bones.”) There’s no coincidence that Vescey saves his most vicious barbs for those who have better TV jobs than he (which means pretty much everyone other than Bud Mishkin).

The Blazers’ Randolph, who returned from a one-game suspension last night (punishment for flipping the bird at Pacers fans on Friday), vented to the Oregonian’s Jason Quick.

“It just shows how much (the Blazers) care about their players,” Randolph said. “They don’t give a damn about me. The team did it, the NBA didn’t do it. It ain’t fair . . . everybody knows it’s not fair.”

Randolph was particularly upset at losing his one-game salary, which was far more than recent fines levied to players who had given the same obscene gesture. In November 2003, Blazers guard Bonzi Wells was fined $10,000 by the team for a similar gesture at the Rose Garden. And last month, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was fined $20,000 by the NFL for the same action.

“Bonzi gets 10-grand and I get $133,000? They are just trying to get their money back; they will do anything to get their money back,” Randolph said. “They know it, and I told them it’s not fair. I guess they are trying to prove a point and make me an example, but would they have done it to anybody else? Had it been another organization, it probably would have just been a fine. But me, I’m suspended, just like that.”