Originally created 03/19/00

Rider quickly wears out welcome with Hawks



ATLANTA -- After burning out with yet another team, is there anyone who wants Isaiah Rider?

The talented, troubled guard didn't even make it through a season with the Atlanta Hawks, who waived him Friday night after he showed up late for a game against Boston. Still, despite previously wearing out his welcome in Minnesota and Portland, Rider remains confident he'll find a job somewhere.

"I'm not worried about who wants me," Rider said during a rambling diatribe after a 114-90 loss to the Celtics.

In the world according to J.R., the Hawks scuttled a trade deadline deal with Miami because they didn't want him going to a contending team. Rider also claimed two teammates, Dikembe Mutombo and LaPhonso Ellis, went to the NBA with unfounded charges of marijuana abuse.

Mutombo and Ellis denied Rider's allegations. "I don't turn people in. I don't work for the police," Mutombo said.

In Cleveland, Miami coach Pat Riley conceded that he spoke with Atlanta about a trade but didn't sound all that interested in Rider, who was leading the Hawks in scoring at 19.3 points per game.

"Yeah, we had some discussions," Riley said at the shootaround before Saturday night's game against the Cavaliers. "Everybody did."

Now, even if Rider were signed by the Heat for the rest of the regular season, he wouldn't be eligible for the playoffs.

"I don't know if somebody who can't play for you in the playoffs would be much of a help," Riley said. "And he's a free agent (after the season). But I'm sure there are teams interested who are trying to get into the playoffs."

Rider came to the Hawks in August with a troubled reputation, going back to his first pro practice with Minnesota in 1993, when he showed up late. He has feuded with coaches and been convicted for marijuana possession and assault.

The Hawks realized they were taking a major gamble when they dealt Steve Smith, one of the league's most respected players, to the Trail Blazers for Rider and Jim Jackson. But general manager Pete Babcock pointed out that the team still has Jackson, now the team's top scorer with a 17.4 average, and additional cap room for next season.

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

"We feel very good about Jimmy and his professionalism and what he's brought to the team," Babcock said. "But this part of the experiment (with Rider) was a failed part of the experiment from our perspective. I'm sure we failed J.R. from his perspective."

While admitting he was late on numerous occasions, Rider claimed he was made a scapegoat when it became apparent the Hawks were not going to make the playoffs. Atlanta (24-40) has lost seven of its last eight games.

"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 had been used sparingly since he arrived late for a March 9 game against San Antonio.

At that time, Babcock told Rider that he would be suspended for three games the next time he was tardy. When he showed up 10 minutes after the 6 p.m. deadline Friday, the Hawks told him not to bother suiting up.

"Basically, they were trying to suspend me every time they could," Rider said. "I could show up at 6 o'clock and 30 seconds and they would suspend me. ... It's not fair. There were guys sitting around in their slacks when I got here."

Rider refused to accept his third suspension of the season and asked the Hawks to waive him. They agreed, meaning he'll be an unrestricted free agent if no one makes a claim in 48 hours.

The other Hawks refused to criticize Rider -- Ellis called the whole situation "really sad" -- but there was clearly a sense of relief that the team's most distracting player won't be around for the final 18 games of a lost season.

"I'm the biggest Isaiah Rider fan," rookie guard Jason Terry said. "I sit next to him every day. All season's been like a soap opera, though. Little meetings here, little meetings there. It just got old after a while."

From the beginning, the 29-year-old Rider was unhappy in Atlanta. He missed the opening day of training camp and complained about playing for a team that was rebuilding.

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. He was suspended again Dec. 30 for missing a team flight and shootaround before a loss at Detroit. There also were several fines for being late.

Already on pace for their worst season since 1975-76, the Hawks have little hope for improvement after cutting their ties with Rider.

"He's a phenomenal talent," Ellis said. "Probably the best one-on-one player I've actually played with, maybe with the exception of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. When you have that quality of player missing from your lineup, it's certainly going to have an impact."



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