Soviet basketball star Alexander Volkov said Friday he was given permission to join the NBA next season, and immediately touched off a controversy about which team he would play for.
Volkov said he would be "free to join any team" in the NBA, but the league contended he is obligated to play for the Atlanta Hawks, who drafted him in 1986.Meanwhile, center Arvidas Sabonis, consiered the best player in the Soviet Union, said he had abandoned the idea of joining the NBA "for now" and will play in Spain.
"The Soviet Sports Committee has given me permission to play in America and I'm free to join any NBA team," Volkov said.
Volkov, 25, said his chances of joining the Hawks were now "50-50."
"I was advised by my agent in the United States to wait until the draft before definitely making up my mind," he said. "He said that some other NBA teams would be better for me since maybe I could not prosper with the Hawks."
The draft will be held Tuesday night.
In New York, his agent, Mark Fleisher, said he had discussed the situation with Volkov in Zagreb a couple of days ago.
"We said that we'll wait until after the draft and see what team it makes sense for him to play for, what team fills his needs," Fleisher said. "Under no circumstances will Alexander play for the Atlanta Hawks. He has told me he will not play for the Atlanta Hawks.
"The most important reason is that Alexander feels they have too many players in his position. And his chances to be successful in the NBA would be with another team."
However, NBA vice president Gary Bettman said that under the league's collective bargaining agreement Volkov still belongs to the Hawks.
Meanwhile, Sabonis, whose agent had been negotiating with the Portland Trail Blazers, said he had decided to pass up an NBA after spending a year with Spain's Forum Filatelilco, the team he signed with June 7.
Volkov said Sabonis "is afraid he could not make it in the NBA because of his injury."
Sabonis, also 25, had surgery on his left Achilles' tendon two years ago and has not fully recuperated.