Basketball: Bullets given Finger boost

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The Independent Online
MIKE FINGER has been rewarded with a new contract for coaching Peugeot Bullets Birmingham to the Budweiser Championships play-off title in his rookie year, but may have to build a new team for next season.

Finger was one of the few coaches to keep the same line-up for the whole of last season, but the salary expectations of some of his leading players, including Tony Dorsey, Nigel Lloyd, Reggie Kirk and the England international, Chris Haslam, would force the club over the pounds 150,000 salary cap for next season.

Dorsey received the Most Valuable Player title for the second time in the Wembley play-offs, winning it last time after Birmingham's previous success in 1996. The American will improve his marketability this summer if he obtains British citizenship since marrying a Birmingham woman.

"Working with the group of players we have had this season has been a real pleasure. My hope is to keep all the guys together," Finger said. But he also acknowledged that professional players must be expected to pursue the best deal they can find.

The Bullets owner, Harry Wrublewski, left for Australia this week to discuss the situation with his brother, Mike, and other board members of their sister club, The Sydney Kings, but insisted he would not be willing to break the salary cap.

The 6ft 11in Haslam, who plays for England this weekend in the Basketfest tournament in Manchester, would be certain to attract interest from Budweiser League rivals and clubs from the Continent if he eventually decides not to sign a new deal with the Bullets.