While watching the NBA Finals, were you, too, struck by this thought: Dikembe Mutombo for Rasheed Wallace?

The players are a match salarywise. Mutombo makes $17.125 million next year (and $18.8 million in 2004-05, the final year of his contract) while Wallace ends his long-term deal with the Blazers next season at $18 million.

Granted, there are some negatives from Portland's end. Wallace, 29 in September, is still in his prime athletically. Mutombo, who turns 37 on June 25, is well beyond his. And acquiring Mutombo would mean taking on an additional year of megasalary, something that owner Paul Allen is all too familiar with.

The positives outweigh the negatives. Mutombo is showing in the championship series that he can still affect a game defensively. He missed much of this season because of injury, but in his previous 11 seasons he had never sat out more than eight games Ñ and in six of those seasons, he didn't miss a game. He is a liability on offense, but does anybody really think the Blazers need another guy who wants to shoot?

It would be a chance to rid the Blazers of the cancerous Wallace and get something in return before he leaves via free agency after next season. Zach Randolph is the team's power forward of the future, and Wallace's exit would free up the playing time that Randolph needs. Mutombo would replace Arvydas Sabonis, who is likely to stay in Lithuania, and give the Blazers 20 to 25 minutes of shot-blocking, intimidating and rebounding presence a game.

When the Blazers get around to hiring a general manager, probably sometime late this summer, it's a trade they should seriously consider.

• The search group assisting the Trail Blazers in their hunt for a new president and general manager has received permission from the Sacramento Kings to talk with an employee Ñ but it's not Geoff Petrie. Wayne Cooper, Petrie's right-hand man as the Kings' vice president/basketball operations, spoke last week with Buffy Filippell, president of TeamWork Consulting Inc., of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Cooper, who spent five of his 14 seasons as an NBA player with Portland, hasn't interviewed with Blazer officials and nothing is yet scheduled. As of Monday, the Blazers have not asked permission to talk with Petrie.

• Petrie provides this pre-draft report on Oregon's Luke Ridnour: 'He has a real flare for the game. He has decent size but will probably have to get a little stronger. He played in an uptempo prostyle offense at Oregon, which will help him in the pros. There is a fun factor in watching him play. He has struggled at times with quickness against some guys, but he's a good player and a legitimate prospect. After (Texas') T.J. Ford, who seems to be the darling pick of the point guards, he is among the next three or four players who get taken at the position.'

• On Monday, Mychal Thompson started his new gig as co-host of an afternoon radio sports talk show in Los Angeles. And the Lake Oswego resident says an agreement for him to serve as radio analyst for Laker games next season is 'pretty close to a done deal.'

'We are very close,' says the former Blazer, who served as the Minnesota Timberwolves' TV analyst the last two seasons. 'We are filling up the last bit of language (on the contract), but the numbers have been agreed to. Hopefully, we will get it done this week.'

Thompson will be working with either Joel Meyer or Larry Burnett on Laker broadcasts. Because of camp commitments in Portland, Thompson is doing his radio show from KEX (1190 AM) studios Ñ sister station to L.A.'s XTRA (690 AM) Ñ until the middle of August. By then, he must decide whether to move the family to Southern California or remain in Portland.

• Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe knows that the Bills are loaded at running back, with veterans Travis Henry and Olandis Gary and rookie Willis McGahee. But Bledsoe has followed the NFL Europe season of ex-OSU standout Ken Simonton with interest. Simonton signed with the Bills in January and was allocated to the Scotland Claymores.

'I enjoyed watching him when he played for the Beavers,' says Bledsoe, a Portland resident since January. 'He's a talented guy. There have been a lot of success stories in NFL Europe where a player has parlayed success there into doing it in the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised to see him find his way onto the field for us next season.'

OSU coach Mike Riley, who had the 5-8, 200-pound Simonton during his freshman and sophomore seasons, has always maintained that there is a place for him in the NFL. San Francisco coach Dennis Erickson, who coached Simonton for two years, agrees: 'I hope he makes it with Buffalo. He gives them a different look, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can return punts.'

• It's all in the family: Stepbrothers Ray Olajuwon Lampkin (125 pounds) and Marcus Pernell (178) reached the semifinals of the National Golden Gloves boxing tournament last week in Las Vegas. Lampkin, 19, is son of former Portland pro Ray Lampkin. Pernell is 22. 'They are both going to be good pros,' the senior Lampkin says. 'Ray probably will wind up fighting at the weight I did (135). He may hit harder than I did at that age. He has good combinations, and he can box.'

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