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Star Soviet Forward 'Free to Join' NBA

June 23, 1989|From Associated Press

ZAGREB, Yugoslavia — Alexander Volkov, a star forward on the Soviet national team, said today he has received permission to play in the National Basketball Assn. and he is "free to join any NBA team."

But center Arvidas Sabonis, considered the best player in the Soviet Union, said he has abandoned the idea of joining the NBA "for now" and will play in Spain.

"The Soviet Sports Committee has given me the permission to play in America, and I'm free to join any NBA team," Volkov told the Associated Press.

Volkov, 25, was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1986. He said his chances of joining the NBA club are now "50-50."

"I was advised by my agent in the United States to wait until the draft before definitely making up my mind," Volkov said. "He said that some other NBA teams would be better for me since maybe I could not prosper with the Hawks."

The NBA said in New York, however, that under the collective-bargaining agreement, Atlanta still owns the rights to Volkov.

The league's draft will be held in New York on Tuesday night.

Sabonis, whose agent had been negotiating with the Portland Trail Blazers, said he will pass up the NBA and spend a year with Spain's Forum Filatelilco, the team he signed with June 7. He said he will reevaluate his future after that.

Volkov said Sabonis "is afraid he could not make it in the NBA because of his injury."

Sabonis, 25, had serious surgery done to his left Achilles' tendon two years ago and still appears to be hobbled by the injury.

"If they really want me, they will have to wait for at least a year," Sabonis said of the Trail Blazers.

The Trail Blazers drafted Sabonis in 1986, helped him rehabilitate his foot injury and then saw him return home to help the Soviets win the 1988 Olympic gold medal.

A third member of the team, guard Sharunas Marchulenis, said earlier this week that he expects to play for the Golden State Warriors next season.

Valdemaras Homichus, another guard, plans to join the same Spanish club as Sabonis.

Guard Rimas Kurtinaitis and center Alexandr Belosteni have signed for Essen, a West German first division club.

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