Barry Bonds told a judge in San Francisco that he wants two top-notch Bay Area defense lawyers to lead his legal team even though they previously represented potential witnesses against the slugger.

Bonds, who is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury about his steroid use, appeared briefly in U.S. District Court yesterday after prosecutors raised conflict-of-interest concerns about defense attorneys Allen Ruby and Cris Arguedas.

Speaking softly in response to a series of questions by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, baseball's home run king said he wanted the two lawyers to represent him, even though lead attorney Ruby earlier represented Bonds' personal surgeon, Dr. Arthur Ting, and Arguedas represented former track star Tim Montgomery.

Illston did not immediately rule on whether to disqualify Ruby and Arguedas and asked Bonds to file a written declaration by Jan. 4.

Bonds declined to comment as he left court.

Prosecutors said they probably will call Ting as a witness at trial and that they're concerned Ruby won't conduct a rigorous cross-examination of the doctor.

Ting accompanied Bonds to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative to draw the slugger's blood, which was privately tested for steroids. According the indictment charging Bonds with perjury and obstruction, two of those tests came back positive.

Arguedas represented disgraced track star Montgomery and three former NFL players who testified about their steroid use to a grand jury investigating the BALCO steroids ring.

By waiving conflict-of-interest issues, Bonds is precluded from appealing any conviction because of the lawyer's previous representation.

Meanwhile, it was a year of fame and adulation for Bonds with equal parts of shame and condemnation.

In a saga involving news that often landed on the front page instead of the sports page, the Bonds story was voted "Story of the Year" by members of the Associated Press.

The Bonds saga received 1,352 points and 100 of the 146 first-place votes from sports editors and broadcasters.

Michael Vick pleading guilty to a federal charge he ran a dogfighting ring was second with 1,154 points; former NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleading guilty to two federal charges he bet on games he officiated and made calls affecting the point spread in those games was third with 836.

Florida winning both the NCAA football and men's basketball championships added a purely on-the-field entry at No. 4; Patriots coach Bill Belichick being fined $500,000 for videotaping opponents' signals, then leading New England to a perfect start completed the top five.

Because it was released just last week, the Mitchell Report, which detailed doping in baseball, was not on the list. However, it received 17 write-in votes for top story and was No. 9 overall. *