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Petrovic buried in Croatia

Thousands of people, many of them weeping, gathered at a central Zagreb cemetery Friday to pay final respects to NBA star Drazen Petrovic.

President Franjo Tudjman and other high officials of the Croatian government were among fans and friends who attended the Roman Catholic funeral in the city where the New Jersey Nets' shooting guard rose to stardom.

Petrovic died Monday in a car accident in Germany. He was 28.

Amid flowers, candles, and dozens of pictures, his body was escorted to the grave by Tudjman's guard of honor. His friends who carried the coffin openly wept.

Drazen's best friend, former Boston Celtic Stojko Vrankovic, who now plays in Greece, sobbed so hard that Dino Radja, now with Italy's Bennetton, held him in support.

Petrovic's mother, Biserka, had to be carried and finally fainted in front of the open grave.

When the choir sang the first tunes of Ave Maria, many in the crowd began to cry as well.

The deaths of young men have become common here. At least 10,000 people were killed in Croatia's 1991 war with rebel Serbs. Tension remains and so does sporadic fighting and killing.

"Many have died in this country, but this death hurts so much," said Mirna Legisa, a schoolteacher who came with her teenage sons.

"Basketball's Mozart," as Petrovic was called by fans, will be remembered not only for his skills, but also for the rare joy and grace he brought to the sport.

"Drazen is gone now," said Mirko Novosel, head coach of Croatia's national basketball team, who recruited Petrovic at the age of 17. "And there will be no one like him."

Knicks fined $25,000

NEW YORK _ The New York Knicks were fined $25,000 by the NBA for failing to make their players available to the media before Game 6 of their Eastern Conference final playoff series against the Chicago Bulls on June 4.

Earlier in the series, the Bulls also were fined $25,000 for failing to talk to the media after Game 3 at Chicago.

"We were in violation of an NBA rule, so the fine was not unexpected," Knicks spokesman John Cirillo said. "But the Bulls were fined the same amount for repeated violations, so it was surprising that we got the same fine as the Bulls."


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