Flagrant fouls in NBA will bring stiffer penalties


National Basketball Association owners decided unanimousl yesterday to impose harsher penalties this season against players who commit flagrant fouls.

Flagrant fouls are defined as "unnecessary and/or excessive physical contact by a player against an opponent." If officials determine that contact was excessive but not excessive enough for ejection, the team against whom the foul was committed would be awarded two free throws and possession of the ball.

A foul determined to be excessively rough, as well as potentially injurious, would cost the offending player an ejection and a minimum $250 fine.

Owners also adopted a method for determining home-court advantage for the NBA Finals. The first tie-breaker will remain head-to-head records of the two teams. The second tie-breaker will be records of the Eastern Conference teams against the Western Conference.

CELTICS: Forward Larry Bird will miss the next two preseason games -- including tonight's contest against the Washington Bullets in Buffalo, N.Y. -- with a lower-back strain, but should return for Boston's final preseason game Monday night against the Utah Jazz.

Bird began training camp with the back problem, the club said but has played in all five exhibition games. In Wednesday night's 158-135 victory over the Denver Nuggets, Bird had his third triple-double of the preseason -- 21 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds.

* NETS: Derrick Coleman's agent, Harold McDonald, said only contract language is needed to settle the No. 1 draft choice's agreeing to terms, but Willis Reed, New Jersey's senior vice president of basketball operations, cautioned that the deal hadn't been finalized.

McDonald said the first four years of the contract are guaranteed, with the fifth year at the Nets' option. He said incentive clauses could bring the total package to $16 million.

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