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Stern Calls Magnitude of Fraud 'Shocking'

October 27, 2000|From Associated Press

NBA Commissioner David Stern said Thursday that "shocking" fraud by the Minnesota Timberwolves forced him to inflict record punishment over a secret contract for star forward Joe Smith.

Stern stripped the Timberwolves of five first-round draft choices and fined the team $3.5 million for the agreement, which an arbitrator found was intended to circumvent the NBA salary cap.

"The fact is, we gave this a lot more thought than the parties in the Minnesota franchise who risked their future by engaging in one of the most far-reaching frauds we've seen," Stern said.

"This was a fraud of major proportions. There were no fewer than five undisclosed contracts tucked away, hoping they'd never see the light of day. This is fraud that ripped to the heart of the [collective bargaining] compact. The magnitude of this stuff is shocking."

Stern's punishment of the Timberwolves could include one-year suspensions for owner Glen Taylor and anyone in the organization who took part in the deal.

Stern said he hoped to schedule hearings within the next two weeks with Taylor and other team officials, possibly including General Manager Kevin McHale and Coach Flip Saunders, to determine whether they will be suspended.

Thursday night, Minnesota played without Smith for the first time, and seemed to miss the forward's presence on the boards. The Pistons outrebounded Minnesota, 54-43, but the Timberwolves won the exhibition, 88-81.

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A federal judge has ordered the NBA to release the results of a drug test that led to the disqualification of a player who wants to play in Europe.

The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan means the test results of former Philadelphia 76er center Stanley Roberts could be released for use in a German lawsuit.

Kaplan found that the release of the information was not barred by a confidentiality provision in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

Roberts, a former Clipper, was expelled from the NBA in 1999 after the league said he tested positive for an amphetamine designer drug. He arranged to play for a team in Istanbul, Turkey, but was told by FIBA, basketball's world governing body, that the NBA's drug test ban prevented him from playing for two years.

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The NBA will commemorate the 50th anniversary of a black player joining its ranks with a series of special events beginning Tuesday, opening night of the season.

The celebration tips off exactly 50 years since Earl Lloyd became the first black NBA player by suiting up for the Washington Capitals. Also to be honored at Madison Square Garden before the 76er-New York Knick game will be Hank DeZonie and the late Chuck Cooper and Sweetwater Clifton.

Cooper was the first black player drafted (by the Boston Celtics). Clifton was the first to sign a contract (with the Knicks). DeZonie played five games in 1950 for the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.

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Harvey Grant's third stint with the Washington Wizards ended before it even began as the NBA team waived the veteran forward, who re-signed with the club on Oct. 5 and played in six exhibition games. . . . Rookie center Dalibor Bagaric, a first-round draft pick, signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls. The 7-foot-1, 255-pound Bagaric, who played last year in his native Croatia, was the 24th pick in the June draft. . . . Forward Nick Sheppard, formerly of Pepperdine, and guard Jeff Sheppard were cut by the Toronto Raptors, reducing their roster to 16 players. . . . The Knicks waived 6-foot-8 forward Lazaro Borrell, who was obtained from the Seattle SuperSonics as part of the trade that sent Patrick Ewing to Seattle and brought Glen Rice to New York.

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