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Union may appeal recent suspensions

The NBA players association is considering an appeal of the seven-game suspensions given to Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson for legal issues.

Both players were suspended by the league Saturday without pay and are scheduled to miss the first seven games of next season. Artest would lose a little more than $470,000 in salary, about $50,000 more than Jackson.

Jackson released a statement through the Golden State Warriors saying he accepted his suspension. But the union, comparing the penalties to other recent suspensions given to players for off-the-court reasons, may take action.

"Based on prior precedent, we think the suspensions are excessive," union director Billy Hunter said Sunday in a statement. "We plan to confer with the players and their representatives to consider all of our options for appeal."

Hunter, Artest, and Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, are in Africa taking part in the union's "Feeding One Million" campaign, helping distribute 11 million pounds of rice in Kenya.

Artest pleaded no contest in May to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge stemming from a March 5 dispute with his wife. Jackson pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of criminal recklessness for firing a gun outside an Indiana strip club last fall, when he was with the Pacers.

The seven-game bans topped the five games Ruben Patterson was hit with in 2001 after he entered a modified guilty plea in Washington state to third-degree attempted rape for allegedly forcing his children's nanny to perform a sex act on him. Three years ago, Eddie Griffin was penalized three games after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Texas.

The league came down harder on Artest and Jackson, citing their "serious offenses" and calling each "repeat violators of NBA rules." Artest was suspended 73 games and the playoffs, and Jackson for 30 games after both ran into the stands to fight with fans in Detroit while playing for Indiana in 2004.

The union has 30 days from Saturday to file an appeal, which would be heard by an arbitrator.

MOURNING TO RETURN: Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning is coming back, one more time.

Ending nearly three months of suspense about his future, the veteran said Sunday night at his annual Zo's Summer Groove charity game that he'll play again next season — a choice he kept secret to the end, insisting he was still deciding just hours before the actual announcement.

"I will be coming back," Mourning said.

This was the third straight summer Mourning considered retirement before choosing to keep playing. Next season will be his 15th in the NBA, not including a full year he missed with kidney problems that led to him getting a transplant in 2003.

"It will definitely be my last year," Mourning said.

Mourning averaged 8.6 points last season for the Heat, and his 5.44 blocks per 48 minutes led the NBA by a wide margin. He started more than half of Miami's games last season while Shaquille O'Neal recovered from knee surgery, and the Heat clearly wanted him back — especially since his $2.8 million salary for next season makes the seven-time All-Star a bargain.