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Rider Released By Hawks

Isaiah Rider was released by the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night after he refused to accept a three-game suspension for showing up late for a game.

Rider called himself the scapegoat for the Hawks' problems and accused two of his teammates, Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis, of going to team management with allegations of marijuana abuse.

"It's not fun to be with a team that doesn't want you around and is looking for a reason to get rid of you," said Rider, who led the Hawks in scoring but had been used sparingly since he showed up late for a March 9 game against San Antonio.

Rider, who has continually run afoul of team rules since he was acquired from Portland in August, was told after the last incident that he would be suspended for three games if he was late again.

When he showed up 10 minutes late for Friday night's game against Boston, general manager Pete Babcock told Rider he couldn't play.

The two talked in the tunnel leading to the court for most of the third quarter. Rider turned down the three-game suspension and asked to be waived. The Hawks complied.

"This was an experiment that didn't work," Babcock said after a 114-90 loss to the Celtics dropped the Hawks to 24-40.

Rider claimed that Mutombo and Ellis went to Babcock a couple of months ago with allegations of drug use. Babcock, according to Rider, reported the charges to the NBA.

"Everyone wonders why I was moody at times," said Rider, who was convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession when he played with the Portland Trail Blazers. "I had to deal with players going to the league with accusations that were unproven or anything."

"They had not seen anything. They had not smelled anything. It was just a vicious attack on J.R."

Mutombo and Ellis denied Rider's version of events.

"I don't know anything about that," Ellis said. "I've always treated my teammates like brothers. Everything stays within the family. If I had a problem with him, I would go to him. It's just sad that he would accuse me of that."

Added Mutombo, "Somebody has got to be blamed. I'm glad it was me."

The Hawks refused to criticize Rider, with Babcock going to far as to say "we failed him as far as providing the kind of environment he was looking for." But there was clearly a sense of relief that Rider wouldn't be around to cause any more distractions."

"He's a great guy, but he's diferent," Mutombo said. "That's the only way to describe him."

Rider had played sparingly since the San Antonio incident, averaging 2.8 points and 11.3 minutes in four games. In a loss to Indiana on Wednesday night, he scored one basket in seven minutes and spent the rest of the night at the end of the bench. At one point, he clapped along with a small contingent of fans who chanted, "We want Rider!"

Rider, who was averaging 19.3 points per game, already had been suspended twice by the Hawks and fined repeatedly.

He has complained about playing for a team in a rebuilding mode and said last month he didn't mind getting released by the Hawks if they couldn't work out a trade. The deadline passed without a deal, but the team was reluctant to cut Rider loose in hopes of working out a sign-and-trade deal after the season.

Rider is making $5.4 million in the final year of his contract.

The 29-year-old guard came to the Hawks in August along with Jim Jackson in a deal that sent Steve Smith, one of the NBA's most reliable players, to Portland.

Rider created trouble right away, missing the opening day of training camp. He was excused from the team's Nov. 2 opener so he could attend his grandfather's funeral, but then failed to return for practice and was fined.

Rider was suspended for one game after he missed practice the day before a Nov. 18 game against Charlotte, saying his car had been vandalized. Babcock noted at the time that Rider did not need a car to get to Philips Arena, which is located a short walk from his hotel.

He was suspended again Dec. 30 for missing a team flight and shootaround prior to a loss at Detroit. Rider showed up about an hour before the game, refused to explain his absence to the media and was banned from the team's flight home.

His history of NBA offenses dates back to his first pro practice with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1993, when he showed up late. Other problems have included feuds with coaches and a conviction for assault.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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