NBA ruling puts Baker talks on hold

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The Raptors will not be dishing out dough to Vin Baker anytime soon. Baker was scheduled to visit Toronto last night to meet with general manager Glen Grunwald. However, the trip was put on hold after the NBA ruled yesterday that the 6-foot-11 power forward is not allowed to sign a contract with an NBA team -- or even negotiate a deal -- until his arbitration case against the Boston Celtics is heard. That prompted an angry response from NBAPA union director Billy Hunter.

"It is outrageous for the NBA to prevent Vin Baker from signing with any NBA club," Hunter said. "The league's action is a clear admission that Vin is not only fit to play professional basketball, but there are numerous teams willing to sign him."

Baker's agent, Aaron Goodwin, said the Raptors, New York Knicks and Miami Heat all remain interested, though he will not make a choice until he is cleared to sign a contract.

The union filed a grievance last month with arbitrator Roger Kaplan after the Celtics terminated the final 2 1/2 seasons of Baker's contract. No date for a hearing has been set.

Baker was due to earn $35 million US over the remainder of his contract. At the time of the termination, he had missed 10 games while on suspension for violating terms of his alcohol treatment program.

League spokesman Tim Frank confirmed the memo was issued. It explained that if Baker wins his arbitration case, his contract would be reinstated and he would return to the Celtics.

Grunwald took the news in stride and said that he is still interested in acquiring Baker to help the Raptors get into the playoffs and beyond once the arbitration is resolved.

"We had plans to bring him (last night)," Grunwald said. "But we can't talk to him now."

Baker travelled to Miami and New York last weekend in his quest for employment.

He averaged 16 points and 7.9 rebounds per game prior to this season with the Celtics and, if healthy and sober, would give the Raptors the inside scoring presence they so desperately need.

If Kaplan does not reinstate Baker to the Celtics, New York and Miami are said to have the inside track in signing the troubled forward.

The Raptors are reportedly also interested in acquiring veteran point guard Rod Strickland, who was waived by the Orlando Magic. Like Baker, Strickland brings some heavy personal baggage.


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