NJ high school basketball player Al Harrington said
Monday that he will skip college and make himself eligible
for the NBA Draft, according to Michael Amsel of the ASBURY
PARK PRESS. Harrington, 18, said he reached the decision on
Saturday after a "heated debate" with his mother, Mona
Lawton, who wanted him to attend Seton Hall. Harrington
said he is going is to sign with an agent today, and Amsel
writes that the "most likely choice appears to be Eric
Fleischer," who handles Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury.
Harrington said he talked to Garnett for advice: "Kevin told
me he is having the time of his life. But he said, 'Be
prepared to really work'" (ASBURY PARK PRESS, 5/12).
DOES THE GAME SUFFER? In Philadelphia, John Smallwood
writes under the header, "Child's Play Hurting Quality Of
NBA Game." He writes that the NBA's declining skill level
"has become a serious problem," as today's young players
lack the proper fundamentals, which "is visibly hurting the
NBA product" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/12).
BOBBY'S CAMEO: In Atlanta, Terence Moore questions why
top college coaches like John Thompson, Roy Williams, Dean
Smith and Bobby Cremins, among others, agreed to appear in
Spike Lee's "He Got Game." Moore: "What were they
thinking?" But he adds that Cremins and others may have
been "ambushed" by Lee. Cremins said that while at a camp
in NJ last year, Lee came up to him and asked if he could
shoot a scene for his movie. Cremins: "I said sure, and my
line was, 'I've seen Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson --
but Jesus is better.' Being Catholic, I felt bad about
saying something about Jesus, but I just trusted Spike"
(Terence Moore, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/12).
IRL: On SPEEDNET, Bill Koenig writes that for IRL team
owners, the "hunt continues for sponsors." While there has
been an increase of sponsorship spending on the league
level, teams are "hoping to see more spending at their
level." IEG estimates that IRL will draw $101M in
sponsorships this year, not including Pep Boys' title
sponsorship deal and Pepsi's deal as the Official Soft Drink
of the IRL and IMS (Bill Koenig, SPEEDNET, 5/12). IRL
Founder Tony George, at the Indy 500 trials: "The league is
coming into its own. We're right where we should be. We
have had a record number of (Indy 500) entries because our
equipment is affordable" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/11).
COULD NAFTA HELP HOCKEY? Toronto trade lawyer Barry
Appleton is scheduled to appear today before the House of
Commons subcommittee studying sport in Canada and will argue
that NAFTA can be applied to assist Canadian NHL franchises
(OTTAWA CITIZEN, 5/12). But Dexter Bishop, spokesperson for
Canada's Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Int'l Trade, said
"NAFTA looks after goods, services and investment, not
sports" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/12)....The ECHL has awarded
its '99 All-Star Game and Skills Competition to the MS Sea
Wolves. The events will be held January 12 and January 13
at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum (ECHL).
GIANTS EXEC DISPUTES BORAS: MLB Giants Assistant GM Ned
Colletti yesterday denied that he had made any monetary
"offer or pledge" to J.D. Drew before last June's amateur
draft. Drew's agent, Scott Boras, has testified that the
Giants were one of the teams that had contacted him and made
overtures about Drew (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/12).
During media day for the WNBA Liberty yesterday at the
Reebok Club in Manhattan, Rebecca Lobo expressed hope that a
players' union would soon be formed, according to Ackert &
Garcia of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Lobo: "We don't need it to
demand million-dollar salaries like the NBA, but we need it
for the little reasons. We need it to make sure the lowest
players are paid a little more than $5,000 a year and guard
against agents. Right now we don't have anyone to certify
agents" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12). Lobo added that "many" of
the players' two-year contracts will expire after this year,
making the time ripe to unionize. WNBA President Val
Ackerman said the unionization process "is a player
decision. The whole issue and when is a good time is
entirely up to the players. Our approach would be to try to
be constructive" (AP/DETROIT NEWS, 5/12).
TICKET SALES: At media day, the Liberty said they have
sold more than 5,500 season tickets, with pre-season set to
start in 19 days on May 31 (N.Y. POST, 5/12).
A team of MLB All-Stars will travel to Japan this
November to play a series of games against Japanese teams.
The '98 tour will consist of eight games played between
November 6-15 in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Osaka, Japan. MLB All-
Stars will play seven games against a team of Japanese All-
Stars, and play one against the Yomiuri Giants. All games
will be broadcast live in Japan on Nippon TV. The MLB All-
Star participants will be announced later this summer. The
MLB team toured Japan most recently in '96 (MLB).
TELL IT TO THE KING: Acting MLB Commissioner Bud Selig
had no comment regarding a report on Monday by Larry King
that Selig would be named permanent commissioner by year's
end. Selig: "I have made my feelings very well-known for
six years" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/12).
Michael Ovitz's bid for an NFL team in L.A. was
examined by CNN's Casey Wian on "Moneyline." Sports
management consultant David Carter: "Michael Ovitz brings
three major things to the table that the NFL likes ...
political savvy, business connections and a tremendous
amount of money. His war chest of $750 million, when
combined with his connections here locally, make him a very
formative player." Ovitz declined to comment for CNN. Wian
added that Ovitz "also faces formidable obstacles,
environmental problems, for one," and the presence of the
L.A. Coliseum which has its own proposal for a renovated
stadium with luxury boxes. L.A. City Councilmember Mark
Ridley-Thomas, on the New Coliseum Partners: "We are
cheaper. We can build it quicker. ... We're the game in
town to beat, and as near as I can tell, no one has put
together the wherewithal to do that" ("Moneyline," 5/11).
UNION BOSS: NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw is featured in a
Q&A by USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell, who writes, "Yes, these are
good times for Upshaw, who has survived harsh criticism,
skepticism and even dissent within the ranks to sustain his
position longer than any current players' union chief."
Upshaw says the NFLPA is now "worth more than" $70M, and its
Players Inc arm has "become worth more than" $30M in three
years. Upshaw said that over the past five or six years the
union has worked with the league "to do what's best for the
game. For once, we all understand that it's not a
competition between the players and the owners, that the
other sports are the real competition" (USA TODAY, 5/12).
AGENT TO SUE? MA-based agent Jack Mula is "considering"
suing the NFL to change its rules which prohibits a college
player from taking part in minicamp until his class has
graduated -- even if the player has completed his degree
requirements. Mula said the rule hurts late-round draft
picks and free agents who "have to get to camp and show what
they can do right away" (Nick Cafardo, BOSTON GLOBE, 5/12).