Spurs put Wingate contract talks on hold


The future of David Wingate as a member of the San Antonio Spurs was put on hold by the owner of the National Basketball Association team yesterday, as the Spurs awaited more information on the pending investigation of a rape charge against the veteran guard from Baltimore.

Wingate, 26, who played for Dunbar High's mythical national champions in 1982 and Georgetown's National Collegiate Athletic Association championship team in 1984, was charged Monday by Howard County police with the second-degree rape of a 17-year-old Baltimore girl.

Wingate also was charged with a fourth-degree sexual offense and with battery. He was released on $10,000 bail late Monday night. A grand jury will determine whether he will stand trial.

A restricted free agent, Wingate appeared ready to re-sign with the Spurs, who had reached a tentative agreement with his agent, David Falk, of ProServ Inc. Falk has retained the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly to represent Wingate. The Spurs, in turn, have asked NBA general counsel Gary Bettman to assist in the investigation.

At a news conference in San Antonio yesterday afternoon, team owner Red McCombs told the media, "This [the rape charge] puts everything on hold."

Asked whether the team would try to sign Wingate before training camp begins Oct. 5, McCombs said: "I can't answer that. Obviously, a situation like this is very new to us. We're not set in concrete on what we'll do."

McCombs and vice president/general manager Bob Bass said Wingate, who averaged 6.8 points as a reserve, had been "a model citizen" in his one season with the Spurs.

"We couldn't have had a more committed player to our program," said McCombs, who purchased the Spurs in 1988 and has advocated strong player ties to the San Antonio community.

"During his time here, he never did anything to indicate he would be charged with something like this. These are very serious charges, and I hurt for him and our fans."

Said Bass, who negotiated the August 1988 trade that brought Wingate, point guard Maurice Cheeks and center Christian Welp from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Johnny Dawkins and Jay Vincent, "Obviously, we're all shocked by this. We've had nothing but good things to say about David since he joined us. He's always on time, played hard, had a great year and got along with all his coaches and teammates. Basically, he's quiet, but he has a fine sense of humor."

Spurs coach Larry Brown was attending a function in Raleigh, N.C., and could not be reached for comment. Wingate has been instructed by Falk not to talk to the media concerning the case.

Even if the case goes to trial, it is unlikely to take place before next spring, permitting Wingate to play most of the 1990-91 season.

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