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Rumors of Jordan Ownership Keeps the ABL Buzzing

The buzz begins in America’s heartland, somewhere near Chicago, then wafts outward, toward both coasts.

Michael Jordan has basketball people of both genders buzzing:

* Will he return to the Bulls, retire or wind up on another NBA team?

* Is he about to claim a stake in the American Basketball League?

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ABL players and their agents on both coasts are wondering about the rumor, thus far unconfirmed, that Jordan will buy the ABL’s Chicago expansion franchise. Craig Hodges, a former teammate of Jordan’s, is married to the team’s general manager, Allison Hodges.

“We’ve been hearing about Jordan maybe doing something with the ABL, it’s been buzzing around out there for a few weeks,” said Jennifer Azzi of the San Jose Lasers.

“All of us have heard it, that he might even be the owner-operator of the Chicago team,” said Natalie Williams of the Long Beach StingRays.

ABL chief Gary Cavalli wouldn’t comment, other than to say Jordan’s rumored involvement was an “exciting possibility.”

The ABL’s third season begins in November.

No one’s talking for now, including Jordan.

Meanwhile, what the ABL needs even more than Jordan’s name--an enhanced television package--still proves elusive. And the lack of major TV exposure is beginning to look ominous.

Cavalli said at the league’s combine workouts in April that a new TV deal would be announced by June 1.

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Turns out the league tried to induce Fox to buy a broadcast-partial ownership package, which the network spurned.

“They’ve come to us three times with a prospectus and we’ve told them no,” said Fox spokesman Vince Wladika.

Will the ABL’s present Fox deal be renewed or enhanced?

“That hasn’t been decided yet,” Wladika said.

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Of that, Cavalli said, “We’re very close to a TV deal. We’ll hope to announce something in two to four weeks.”

BACK ON HER GAME

Suzie McConnell Serio of the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers was leading the league in assists until she was sidelined recently because of a foot injury. She’s 31, a 5-foot-5 mother of four children, ages 7, 3, 2 and 1.

She was a point guard at Penn State, class of ’88, and coaches a high school girls’ team in Pittsburgh.

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A year ago, after Houston’s Sheryl Swoopes had her baby and announced she’d be back to her old form by the end of the summer, Pam McGee--a mother of two who was then with Sacramento, now with the Sparks--burst out laughing.

“After you have a baby, it’s a minimum one to two years before you’re where you were before childbirth,” McGee said recently.

Swoopes gave birth to her son June 25, 1997, was overweight when she returned to play in August and wasn’t close to where she was before her pregnancy.

“You can get your feminine body back fairly quickly,” McGee said.

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“But you need a lot of time to bring back all your athletic skills--everything from your stamina, strength, speed, even your jumping ability,” McGee said.

“All those months, all your body’s energy was going to that little life inside you.”

NOTEWORTHY

The WNBA is quick to point out it had eighteen players from eight countries playing in the recent World Championships, but seven of the 12 players on the championship U.S. team were ABL players. . . . StingRay veterans Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil and Cass Bauer signed new ABL contracts recently, giving Long Beach eight signed players for next season. . . . One-time Virginia guard Dena Evans was the last player cut in training camp by the StingRays last September, and the last cut by the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury earlier this month.

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The Houston Comets got some rebounding help over the weekend, after Washington waived 6-2 Tammy Jackson, whom they had picked in the expansion draft. She wasn’t a starter last season but led the Comets in rebounds six times. . . . Cleveland guard Michelle Edwards, who spent training camp in a foot cast while a torn ligament healed, has returned to practice and could be activated this week.


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