One of the baddest of bad boys in recent NBA history -- former Timberwolf J.R. Rider -- is negotiating a return to professional basketball in the United States at age 38.
The owner of the first-year North Texas Fresh in the American Basketball Association said this morning that he is "in the process of getting it done" and bringing Rider on board. Owner Jay Bowdy said that Rider has another offer in play from a team overseas, where players can make more money.
"We're waiting on that," said Bowdy, in an interview from Fort Worth. If that other offer falls through, then the 6-foot-5 guard "is coming to us."
Rider's agent, Joe Lee, said this morning that Rider hasn't played organized ball since a 10-game pit stop with the Denver Nuggets in 2001-02. Still, he's "been working out hard" and playing pickup ball with local college guys in suburban Phoenix, where Rider now makes his home, Lee said.
The New Jersey Nets are considering inviting Rider to preseason camp, Lee said, even though that team said it doesn't see Rider competing for a roster spot.
And what about the Timberwolves? "He'd go in a heartbeat," Lee said. "He's humbled now ... he's matured."
Bowdy said he's well aware of Rider's checkered past with the law. "I don't look at what any one of my players has done in the past," he said, adding that he gives them a fresh chance for the future.
Rider had a string of arrests both during and after his career for drug use, assault and other crimes. He also racked up large fines and suspensions during his playing days for offenses that ranged from being tardy to practice to spitting at fans.
Bowdy said he had "a good conversation" with Rider earlier this month, describing him as "very well-mannered."
He said Rider still dreams of returning to the NBA. "If we're a steppingstone, we're fine with that," Bowdy said.
Bowdy said Rider has an Oct. 1 deadline with his team to decide. Camp opens Oct. 3. The team's first-ever game is Nov. 29.
The Fresh is making its debut in the ABA, a minor league that harkens back to the original ABA that made its mark in the 1960s and '70s with a red-white-and-blue basketball and a high-flying style. The current ABA has dozens of franchises across the country.
Rider was drafted out of UNLV in 1993 as the No. 5 overall pick by the Timberwolves and played three seasons in Minnesota. While he was an offensive force with the Wolves (season averages of 16.6, 20.4 and 19.6 points per game), management grew tired of his off-the-court troubles and traded him to Portland.
He later played for Atlanta and the Los Angeles Lakers before his NBA career flamed out after 10 games with Denver in 2001-02.
One of his brightest NBA moments didn't even come in a game. In 1994, he won the league's slam-dunk championship during All-Star Weekend in Minneapolis, clinching the victory with his "East Bay Funk Day." His in-the-air, between-the-legs move prompted NBA legend Charles Barkley to say, "It might be the best dunk I've ever seen."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482