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Pro Basketball briefs

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2000

WNBA final has same foes, new attitudes

NEW YORK -- Two familiar foes cross paths tonight when the Liberty faces the three-time champion Houston Comets in the WNBA final.

The best-of-three series opens at Madison Square Garden before moving to Houston for Games 2 and 3.

The Comets -- the only champions the WNBA has known -- have returned for a fourth straight season.

"We're amazed we are here," coach Van Chancellor said. "How many thought it was going to be both coasts, L.A. and New York, in the final? This team has the most pride of any team I've been involved with."

The Comets (31-5) beat regular-season champion Los Angeles and face a New York team that posted a 24-13 regular-season record and has won 13 straight at the Garden.

"New York is a vastly improved team from even a month ago," Chancellor said. "I know they are a better team. New York is playing as good as Los Angeles. I think the Liberty will be very good in handling the pressure. That's why I didn't want to play them in the final."

The Liberty can find its inspiration in a Game 3 loss in last year's championship, the second runner-up finish at the hands of the Comets.

New York forced a deciding game with a last-second, half-court shot by Teresa Weatherspoon. The league used the shot in its TV ads to promote this season.

Weatherspoon said this year's team is the most athletic that the Comets have faced.

"Nobody believed in ourselves and our fans," she said. "We're a basketball team, too, and they have to stop us."

New York's Vickie Johnson said the Comets "were the best team in the league the past three years. They have three of the best players in the league. We know Houston better than they know themselves."

Houston is led by Cynthia Cooper, a former two-time MVP; MVP Sheryl Swoopes, who averaged 22.5 points and 7.5 rebounds against New York, and Tina Thompson.

Union won't buy league

NEW YORK -- The union that represents National Basketball Association players probably won't buy the Continental Basketball Association from Isiah Thomas, said Michael Curry, the Pistons guard who is first vice president of the union.

Thomas, hired to coach the Pacers, bought the 10-team league for about $10-million last year. The NBA is making him sell it because team executives are banned from owning any stake in another league.

Billy Hunter, the union's executive director, had considered a partnership with BET Holdings Inc. chairman Robert L. Johnson. Hunter said he's weighing offers from other unidentified investors.

4-team trade still possible

SEATTLE -- Vin Baker, who is heading for Australia to play for the U.S. Olympic team, is disappointed that Detroit pulled out of a four-team, 13-player deal that would have sent him to the Knicks for center Patrick Ewing.

"Vin welcomes the opportunity," Aaron Goodwin, Baker's agent, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "He has been working very hard to get back into form, and if New York wants him, he's happy to go to New York."

The Seattle Times reported that the Sonics, the Knicks and the Lakers were attempting to get another team, possibly the Charlotte Hornets, involved so the Ewing-for-Baker trade could happen.

In the original deal, the Lakers would have sent Glen Rice to the Knicks. The Times said the trade still was likely, but could take a day or two.

MAGIC: CNLRealty Inc., an Orlando real-estate investment trust that is planning a downtown redevelopment project, is working with team officials and is expected to present plans for a new arena this fall, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The Magic also is looking at building an arena in the suburbs, the report said.

NETS: Not five minutes into a news conference to announce the signing of the NBA's No. 1 draft pick, Kenyon Martin made a preemptive strike.

"No questions about the leg," New Jersey's new power forward said after agreeing to a contract expected to be worth $11.3-million over three years.

The 6-foot-9 Martin's readiness had been a question because of the broken right leg and ankle ligament damage that ended his senior season at Cincinnati in March.

But Martin, fresh from a big man's camp in Hawaii, says he performed well against players like Austin Croshere, Sean Elliott and former Nets center Shawn Bradley.

Coaches at the camp were saying, "Take it easy," Martin said. "If I'm here, I'm not going to take it easy."

SPURS: Sean Elliott, who helped San Antonio win the world championship in 1999, is leaning toward returning for another season with the team, the Express-News reported. Elliott, 32, who missed more than 60 games after recovering from a kidney transplant, said he will meet with management this week. "I feel better than I did four or five years ago," he said.

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