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NBA Trio Moves to France

September 11, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ Unwilling to play in the NBA at the minimum salary or near it, past-their-prime veterans are moving to Europe.

J.R. Reid, Vern Fleming and Sedale Threatt _ with more than 32 seasons and 2,400 NBA games between them _ are playing with clubs in France.

Less than two months before pro training camps open in the United States, Reid and Threatt have already appeared in games for PSG-Racing and Fleming with Limoges.

Threatt scored 22 points and Reid finished with seven points and eight rebounds as Cholet beat PSG-Racing 85-72.

Fleming helped Limoges, which won the European club title in 1993, to a 75-72 win over Strasbourg. He had eight points and four rebounds, but fouled out in just 28 minutes. Limoges has won the French title eight times since 1983.

Threatt played the entire season for the Los Angeles Lakers last year. At 6-foot-2, he’s best known as taking over as the playmaker of the Lakers after Magic Johnson retired the first time in 1991.

Threatt, 35, went on to average more 15 points the next two seasons, but became a sub when Nick Van Exel became the starting point guard. And with the signing of Shaquille O’Neal to a $120 million contract, the Lakers were looking to cut costs.

European clubs now are more eager to pay large salaries for proven players, even if they are getting old like Threatt and Fleming, 34.

``There are not many clubs that are ready to give them more than the NBA minimum (about $250,000),″ PSG-Racing coach Chris Singleton said. ``But a lot still continue to play because they like to play.″

Greece took a chance last year by signing Dominique Wilkins to a reported $11-million, three-year contract. However, after leading Panathinaikos to the European club title, Wilkins left the squad before the end of the season and is currently being sued by the Greek team.

French basketball also has had high-profile players that failed to produce. Kelly Tripucka, with bad knees, came to Limoges with much fanfare a few seasons back and left very quickly.

Still, the consensus is that Threatt, Reid and Fleming can still produce good basketball _ not as often as required in the NBA, but enough to help their new teams.

``(The Americans) are not good all the time, but they are often operational on a given day,″ Le Mans coach Alain Weisz said.

Wilkins, despite his unhappiness in Greece _ he said he was tired of ``being treated like a dog″ and ended up getting fined $50,000 and suspended for a game _ was the most valuable player in the European Final Four last April in Paris.

Reid, 28, was ready to leave the United States after bouncing from the Charlotte Hornets to the San Antonio Spurs and finally the New York Knicks. He reportedly signed to play in France for $800,000 this year, about a third of what he made in the NBA last season.

Last month, to make room under the salary cap for new players, the Knicks renounced their rights to Reid.

The 6-9 forward averaged close to 10 points in seven seasons, mostly as backup to players like Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, with whom he played on the 1988 Olympic team that won a bronze medal.

Fleming played 11 seasons for the Indiana Pacers before being traded to the New Jersey Nets last year. He made the second all-rookie team his first year out of Georgia in 1985 and was a member of the 1984 Olympic team in Los Angeles that won the gold medal.

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