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Parting ways

Mavericks release rookie Leon Smith

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Posted: Wednesday February 02, 2000 04:55 PM

 

DALLAS (AP) -- Leon Smith, the talented but troubled teenager struggling to go from high school star to NBA rookie, has been released by the Dallas Mavericks and is a free agent.

Smith's stormy relationship with the Mavericks ended Tuesday with a deal that ensures he'll get the $1.45 million he was guaranteed by being a first-round pick. The only question is who will be picking up the tab.

If another team takes a chance on the 19-year-old forward, they must fulfill the three-year deal Smith signed in November. If not, the Mavericks will pay it out over 10 years.

Smith's job-hunting likely won't begin until after a court appearance Thursday in Chicago relating to misdemeanor charges of violating an order of protection, criminal damage to property and aggravated assault.

NBA players association chief Billy Hunter, who is personally representing Smith, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that several teams have inquired about the youngster.

"My ambition is to move ahead with the second phase, and that's the rebirth of Leon Smith," Hunter said. "And I'm extremely hopeful that'll happen."

Smith, who was raised a series of group and foster homes in Chicago, refused Dallas' request that he play in a developmental league or go overseas to help with his transition to the NBA. He ended up signing the day the season began.

But Smith worked out away from his teammates and within two weeks he attempted suicide by swallowing more than 200 aspirin. He has since said he was distraught over a breakup with a girlfriend.

Weeks later, Smith spent a destructive few days in Chicago and was arrested twice within 24 hours. He's since been in and out of psychiatric care.

He moved to Houston last month to work out with players union representative Purvis Short.

Smith never played a game with the Mavericks.

A change in Mavericks' ownership almost kept Smith with the team. Incoming owner Mark Cuban didn't want to write off the loss without at least trying to salvage something.

"Mark wanted to explore the option of Leon staying with us and we did that to his satisfaction," team president Terdema Ussery said. "But Mark made it clear from the very beginning that whatever the Players Association thought was in Leon's best interests is what we would do."

 
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