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Stern, union wrangle on marijuana policy

NBA commissioner David Stern said the union is trying to trade economic concessions for a policy covering the use of marijuana. The union countered by accusing Stern of courting public opinion as talks near over a new collective-bargaining agreement.

"Frankly we have been unable to get the players' association to address the issue," Stern said Wednesday by teleconference, noting he thought there was an oral agreement two years ago to reopen the league's substance-abuse policy, which has been in effect since 1984 and does not cover marijuana.

"What we've been hearing from them has been "What economic consideration would you pass to us in order for us to agree to this issue?' This is such a complete perversion of our previous relationship on this subject, and our specific understanding, that we're dumbfounded by the approach."

In a statement, National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said Stern "has misstated our discussions by claiming that we have insisted on economic concessions in return for altering the drug policy. The policy is one very important part of a broad collective-bargaining agreement. We are willing to negotiate issues pertaining to our drug policy in the context of a variety of non-economic and economic issues."

The matter of the drug policy surfaced recently in a New York Times article estimating marijuana and alcohol abuse could involve as much as 70 percent of the league's players.

Hunter said Stern was trying "to gain an edge in the event the NBA terminates the current collective-bargaining agreement."

BARKLEY MAY RETIRE: The Rockets' Charles Barkley, saying his young daughter was being harassed by schoolmates over his arrest in Orlando, told several Houston reporters he is "leaning toward retirement" from basketball.

Barkley, who has missed consecutive practices, was in Phoenix to mull over his future with his wife, Maureen, and daughter, Christiana, according to several reports.

Barkley contacted at least two television stations _ KHOU and KTRK _ and called the Houston Chronicle.

KHOU said Barkley reported being upset with harassment his daughter was facing at elementary school in Phoenix.

Barkley also said he was upset the NBA did not rule out suspending him for the Sunday incident in which he was accused of throwing a bar patron through a plate-glass window.

"Right now I'm leaning toward retirement," the 11-time NBA All-Star told the Chronicle. "If the league is not going to stand by me, then I'll just say thank you very much and move on."

Barkley could not be reached by the Associated Press.

NBA officials said in a conference call earlier in the day that the league would take no action against Barkley until there was some outcome in the Orlando case.

Contacted late Wednesday, NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said he had not heard from Barkley about retirement.

CAVALIERS: G/F Wesley Person said a contract modification and extension. Person, acquired with Tony Dumas in a three-way trade with Phoenix and Denver on Oct. 1, had a team-high 15.3 points per game during the preseason.

SITTING WITH A STAR: The 76ers' Allen Iverson, right, shares a laugh with Kyle Gratsy, a 14-year-old who had a heart transplant Oct. 4. The visit at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia was part of TeamUp Day, a leaguewide day of community service that involved an estimated 165 players and coaches.