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Some WNBA Players Return To Practice

May 15, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Teresa Weatherspoon and Sophia Witherspoon of the WNBA’s New York Liberty will report to practice Saturday after a one-day lockout and contract dispute.

Weatherspoon, the two-time WNBA defensive player of the year, and Witherspoon, the Liberty’s top scorer, did not attend the opening day of training camp Friday in West Hempstead, N.Y. They joined Cleveland’s Merlakia Jones and Orlando’s Yolanda Moore as holdouts on the first day of camp.

The Charlotte Sting pushed back its practice until 6 p.m. EDT Friday to make sure contract negotiations for Andrea Stinson, Vicky Bullett and Sharon Manning were finalized. Players can’t attend camp until they sign contracts.

Weatherspoon and Witherspoon were the last of 16 Liberty players to agree in principle to renegotiated contracts after their two-year contracts expired. The terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

``The league was flexible and we gave in a little,″ said Bruce Levy, agent for 10 of 16 Liberty players. ``They’re satisfied with their contracts.″

Before the league’s first collective bargaining agreement was signed on April 30, a dispute over salaries and player appearances postponed the WNBA draft a week.

The dispute shortened the contract negotiation period to three business days.

The league’s original marquee players _ Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Rebecca Lobo _ renegotiated their contracts on Thursday.

Swoopes of the two-time champion Houston Comets agreed to a three-year contract while Leslie of the Los Angeles Sparks agreed to a one-year contract.

Cynthia Cooper, a two-time league MVP of the Comets, agreed to a multiyear contract while the contract terms for the Liberty’s Lobo were not disclosed.

Coquese Washington, a Liberty player and member of the players’ union executive committee, said the league agreed to increase the personal service contracts of top players from the initial $250,000.

The league wanted a no holdout clause this year, but the union did not agree. Next year, players and agents will have a three-week window to negotiate contracts, said Pam Wheeler, director of operations for the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association.

Players on foreign national teams or currently playing professionally overseas have until early June to renegotiate their contracts with the league.

The 12-team league begins its third season on June 10.

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