Mavs' Rookie In Psych Ward


Leon Smith's odyssey has taken another bizarre twist, with the Dallas Mavericks rookie spending time in a psychiatric ward after police found him overdosed on aspirin.

A house guest called police late Sunday saying the 19-year-old player threw a large rock through the rear window of the man's Ford Explorer. When officers arrived, they found Smith passed out on the floor of his apartment and wearing green war paint on his face, a police report states.

Smith slightly resisted officers and paramedics, then stopped and "stated that he was an Indian and was fighting Columbus," the report said.

The visitor Carl Bower, a 33-year-old friend from the group home where Smith was raised told police Smith had taken more than 250 pain relievers.

Smith was taken to the psychiatric ward of Parkland Health & Hospital System. Hospital officials said Smith was in their care Monday, but they provided no other details.

"Our only concern is the health and well being of Leon," said Don Nelson, the Mavericks' coach and general manager. "The Mavericks are doing what we can to help Leon. We are committed to respecting his privacy and ask that others do the same."

Smith's agent, Matt Muehlebach, and Bower did not return calls from The Associated Press.

Smith's leap from high school to the NBA has been filled with unusual episodes, many of which were attributed to immaturity and a troubled childhood. Smith lived in five group homes while spending 14 years as a ward of Illinois. He has been estranged from his parents since he was 5.

Smith declared himself eligible for the NBA draft after averaging 25.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and eight blocks as a senior at Chicago's Martin Luther King High School.

San Antonio took him with the final pick in the first round, then traded him to Dallas. Under NBA rules, all first-round selections get three-year, guaranteed contracts. Smith's was worth $1.447 million.

Problems began the first time Smith suited up as a Maverick. During a July practice, assistant coach Donnie Nelson told Smith to run laps and he shot back, "Why don't you run it?"

Nelson asked Smith what he had said and he repeated it. Nelson then told Smith the comment earned him two more laps and the 6-foot-11, 240-pound forward responded by flinging his jersey to the floor and storming to the locker room.

That episode was followed by months of negotiations with Smith's representatives aimed at convincing the youngster he would be better off spending the season overseas or in a developmental league. The team vowed he would join them by April 19, in time to collect his entire first-year salary of $450,000.

But Smith never bought into that plan and he fired his first agent. On Nov. 2, which was both the opeing day of the season and Smith's 19th birthday, he told the Mavericks he was coming to Dallas.

Don Nelson said two assistant coaches would tutor Smith, and said Smith wouldn't be playing in games any time soon. Last week, Smith went on injured reserve with a back problem.

"He should understand that he was drafted for the future, not for the present," Nelson said at the time.

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