Basketball: Baker defection deflates Byrd

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The Independent Online
Crystal Palace must settle for pounds 500 compensation following the breakdown of their transfer of Ronnie Baker, who comes off the sidelines in time to reclaim his England place for Wednesday's European Championship game against Latvia in Leicester.

The English Basketball Association yesterday settled on the fee for Baker, who two weeks ago registered with Palace but after two games decided he wanted to return to his former club, London Leopards. The Leopards rejected Palace's demand for a pounds 2,000 fee.

The Palace player-coach, Alton Byrd, who had said: "Ronnie is using us to get a better deal out of Leopards," fled the farce yesterday to attend the World 3-on-3 Championships in Los Angeles, where new signing Paul Grant is playing. Neither Grant nor fellow American Tim Garrett have a work permit yet to play for Palace.

Baker's defection, plus the sacking of the Canadian brothers Eric and David Johnson, forced Byrd out of retirement last week for the 87-74 defeat at Birmingham Bullets. Thursday night's 86-69 Budweiser League defeat against Leopards, which Baker had to sit out, was their fifth in a row.

Baker, England's second most-capped current international, was in the squad of 12 named yesterday by the coach Laszlo Nemeth.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v Latvia, European Championship, Leicester, 30 Nov): J Amaechi (Panathinaikos), N Austin (London Towers), S Bucknall (Iraklis), R Baker (London Leopards), K Brown (London Towers), S Dunkley (Limoges), D Herriman (Trieste), R Huggins, I McKinney (both Sheffield), P Scantlebury (Thames Valley), J Swaine (Sheffield), I Whyte (Besanzon).

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