Vernon Maxwell's Tale Of The Tape Last Season, He Punched A Fan. But He Has Convinced The Sixers That He Was Sorely Provoked.

Posted: September 26, 1995

The videotape is hard to forget. There was Vernon Maxwell, a professional basketball player, charging into the stands at Memorial Coliseum in Portland and punching a fan.

The NBA, ever conscious of its image, came down hard on Maxwell, then with the Houston Rockets, fining him $20,000 and suspending him for 10 games. It was an ugly incident, and it was widely portrayed as just another example of the disregard that pro athletes have for the fans who pay their salaries.

The videotape doesn't lie, but it doesn't tell the whole truth, either. Maxwell, who is even money to be the 76ers' starting point guard when the season opens Nov. 3, told a little more of the story yesterday.

"That was a unique situation, what happened in Portland," Maxwell said after working out with the Sixers at St. Joseph's University. "I'm embarrassed about it, but if the same thing happened again . . . well, I'm not sure what I would do.

"That guy was disrespecting my stillborn daughter. Fans can say whatever they want about my family. They can yell racial slurs or whatever. I've heard all that. But when you're talking about my stillborn daughter, who never had a chance. . . . I don't want to talk about it."

Last week, Sixers owner Harold Katz said he had talked to Maxwell about the incident and was satisfied by Maxwell's explanation. Katz didn't specify the nature of the fan's comments but said anyone would have trouble controlling

himself under the circumstances.

"Mr. Katz said he would have punched the guy in the mouth, too," Maxwell said.

Katz's understanding is vital to Maxwell's future with the Sixers. The owner said it was up to John Lucas, the team's coach and general manager, to convince him that Maxwell should be signed. It appears that Lucas succeeded. The Sixers are expected to announce Maxwell's signing today.

"Indiana offered me $500,000 more than Philly did," said Maxwell, who told reporters in Houston last week that he had signed a one-year deal with the Sixers. "Charlotte did, too. But it's not about money at this point."

What it's about, Maxwell said, is playing for Lucas.

"I always wanted to play for John," he said. "He's been a friend, almost like a big brother to me. I feel he has a better handle on me on and off the court."

Although Maxwell has played primarily at shooting guard in his seven seasons in the NBA, the Sixers are considering him as a candidate to fill the point-guard slot left vacant when Dana Barros signed with Boston.

"I liked what I saw today of Maxwell," Lucas said yesterday. "I'm looking for guys who can run. I like what he can do for two reasons: He can play the (point), plus we've got a possible (shooting) guard for the future. That way, Jerry (Stackhouse) can move to (small forward) if we want him to. Vernon gives us multiple options."

And for now, while Lucas is trying to rebuild the Sixers, versatility is important.

"I played (the point) in college," Maxwell said, "and I played it some the last couple of years in Houston. I've always thought that I would get moved to the point sooner or later in my career, because the point guards coming out of college are bigger every year.

"With my size (6-foot-4), I can create some problems for most point guards. I can post up the smaller ones."

After Maxwell, the Sixers' options at point guard are limited. There are a few other veteran free agents - John Crotty and Haywoode Workman among them - as well as a few veterans who could be available in trades. But Lucas said he was reluctant to make a deal for a Sherman Douglas or a Rod Strickland.

"Part of the problem is that you lose some of your talent base," Lucas said. "We're trying to build here. We're still in the stage of gathering talent."

The other problem is the salary cap. Douglas, who was made expendable when Boston signed Barros, is scheduled to make about $3 million per year for the next four years. A clause in his contract would raise his salary 15 percent if he were traded. The Sixers didn't sign Barros because a long-term, big-money deal would have taken away their flexibility under the cap. If they acquired Douglas, it would have the same effect.

Lucas said he would have some younger players work out with the team before camp starts Oct. 6. Rick Brunson, the former Temple point guard, was at St. Joe's yesterday, taking instruction from assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.

Maxwell - like Richard Dumas, whom the Sixers signed last week - is a veteran player whose troubled past makes him available at a lower salary than he might otherwise have commanded. The Sixers can bring him in without giving up players or draft picks.

"I think I can bring some experience," Maxwell said. "Coming from the Rockets, I'm not used to losing a lot. I think I can bring the wisdom that comes from playing for a championship-quality team."

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