Though Tellem does not blame the union for consenting to the escrow tax—" Billy Hunter did a remarkable job of holding the players together for as long as he did"—he believes the union should consider decertifying in three years and taking the owners to court. "We've given the owners a team salary cap, a cap on individual salaries, an escrow tax, a luxury tax and a rookie wage scale," Tellem says. "None of these things would be legal if there were no labor union."
Wistful Wizards Guard
Richmond Eyes Return Home
Juwan Howard said goodbye on Feb. 22, and a week later Rod Strickland left for a better place as well. "They both went to teams that are going to make the playoffs," says 35-year-old guard Mitch Richmond, whom the Wizards were unable to trade. "It's been such a frustrating time, to still be here and have the other guys gone."
Richmond has spent most of his 13 years with the wrong team at the wrong time. After a promising start with the Warriors in the company of Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway, Richmond was dealt in 1991 to Sacramento, where he endured seven losing seasons. The Kings finally started to win, but only after shipping Richmond to Washington in the deal that brought them Webber.
Richmond owns a career scoring average of 22.2 points and a gold medal from the 1996 Olympics, but his career has been tainted by his time with the underachieving Wizards. Washington had the fifth-highest payroll in the league and the second-worst record before unloading Howard to the Mavericks in an eight-player trade and then releasing Strickland, who signed with the Trail Blazers. Richmond has missed 29 games this season with injuries to both knees and at week's end was averaging just 16.2 points on career-low 40.7% shooting. "It would be easy for him under the circumstances to not be out there busting his butt, but he has been a true pro," coach Leonard Hamilton says. "He has accepted whatever role we need him to play."
Richmond expects the Wizards to release him after the season, in which case they will pay him half of the $20 million on the remaining two years of his contract. He has expressed interest in signing for the $1 million veteran's minimum with the Heat next season, which would allow him to end his career near his childhood home of Fort Lauderdale. More important, he could look forward to advancing past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"I just want to be part of something," Richmond says. "I definitely don't want to end my career like this, I definitely have a lot more basketball in me, and I'm definitely frustrated."
Outside the Box Score
The Mavericks are finding out that Juwan Howard is more than just the low-post scorer they needed. With Dallas leading the Nets 56-54 on March 13, Howard initiated a half-court trap against point guard Stephon Marbury, forcing Marbury to surrender the ball. The Mavs went on a 19-4 run en route to a 122-98 blowout. "Marbury is unstoppable one-on-one," said Dallas point guard Steve Nash, who helped hold Marbury to 15 points. "With Juwan's length we got him out of his comfort zone."