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NBA CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES : Extra Playoff Incentive : Lakers' Green Can Improve His Market Value If He Plays Well Against Pistons

June 10, 1989|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

A crew from the 700 Club recently interviewed Laker forward A. C. Green. That should not be confused with the $700,000 club, that not-very-exclusive National Basketball Assn. fraternity of which Green still is not a member.

The interviewers from this syndicated Christian television show talked to Green about his faith. They did not discuss Green's $268,750 salary, believed to be the third-lowest among the league's starting power forwards, or the possibility of Green earning much more than that on the free-agent market this summer.

Green has been asked such questions repeatedly, but responds in generalities about finally getting a lucrative contract after four NBA seasons.

However, Green's market value undoubtedly would rise if his play in the NBA championship series were to improve.

In Game 1 against the Detroit Pistons, Green got into early foul trouble and finished with only eight points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes. Playing slightly better in Game 2 on Thursday night, he had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Facing the possibility that both Magic Johnson and Byron Scott will miss Game 3 on Sunday at the Forum, the Lakers will need more scoring from Green, who usually provides mostly rebounding and defense.

But with each Laker loss to the Pistons, Green's off-season career decisions loom closer. "I have recently discussed the situation with my attorney . . . but we're not discussing anything with the team, not during the playoffs," Green said. "That will be a big priority. But this is the biggest time of the year--the finals--for the team, and I need to be completely into what's going on."

A few months ago, Green had hoped to have a new Laker contract signed and out of the way by playoff time. The Lakers reportedly had made a $1-million offer, but Green balked at signing.

Green was close to an agreement, but the death of Larry Fleisher, Green's agent, resulted in a suspension of talks with Laker General Manager Jerry West until after the playoffs. By that time, though, the 26 other teams will have a shot at signing Green, a restricted free agent, to an offer sheet.

It appears certain that the Lakers will exercise their right of first refusal and match any offer. Under the new players' agreement, however, Green could sign for one season with the Lakers, then become a free agent without compensation after next season.

All these money matters seemingly make Green uncomfortable. He is finding himself torn between the lure of big money and his desire to live a simple, uncomplicated life in which his religion plays a big part.

"I've lived most of my life without an enormous amount of money," Green said. "I was the happiest kind of person you could find because I was secure inside myself. My faith in Jesus, for one. And I have the love of my family. I have a lot of other things that make me happy. So, when people say money makes you happy, I say, 'Maybe for you, but to me, I'm very happy with myself.'

"Even being in the league four years now, I've made more than I ever had in my life. I still don't see any changes or difference. It hasn't done anything to me or for me. Well, I have been able to help my family in a way I never could before, and I support different things inside my church. But it's nothing new and great to me."

As a rookie in 1985, Green signed a four-year contract that paid him $128,750 as a rookie, $133,000 in 1986-87, $218,000 last season and $268,750 this season.

Green had used another agent, a friend, to negotiate the deal. The story goes that, at the time of the negotiations, West saw the inequity and advised Green not to sign.

He did anyway. If Green has had regrets, he has not expressed them. He did not seek renegotiation and has not made any of his salary demands public. It simply is not his style.

"The only reason why I didn't go in to renegotiate or complain about what I was making--knowing what other people make--was mainly because I gave my word when I signed," Green said. "That's something that's very important to me--giving my word. The Bible says, 'A good name is better to be desired than great riches.' I believe that.

"(The Lakers) didn't take advantage of me. They didn't put a gun to my head and say, 'Sign this contract.' It was a mutual agreement. That was the way it was. I wasn't going to create a scene over something I was involved in the whole time."

Once the season is over and Green selects another agent, he said he will be personally involved in the negotiations and this time will not sign until he receives what he believes is fair market value.

"I was involved last time, but I didn't know as much as I do now," said Green, 26. "It was just a lack of knowledge in finances and the (NBA). It'll be different this time."

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