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"So many of the Roy Tarpley rumors that have surfaced in recent years have such a dark tone that one NBA exec recently told us, "I'm pleasantly surprised to hear he's even alive.'' But this Roy Tarpley rumor -- talk of the former Mavs star making a comeback to the NBA -- is more than just gossip, sources tell, noting that at least five NBA teams have responded to his stated interest in returning to basketball by doing background checks on the troubled big man. Want an indication of disinterest from the Mavs, Tarpley's employer until December 1995 NBA? We get it from owner Mark Cuban, who politely tells, "We wish Roy well in his pursuits."

"But Tarpley, who recently appeared as a fan at a Mavs game and said, "I've got some big news happening soon. ... It ain't over yet,'' has clearly piqued the interest of clubs who remember Tarpley as the rare 7-footer with all-around basketball skills. Teams are making phone calls to old Tarpley acquaintances around Dallas, wondering who he is associating with, wondering who he has new bonds with. One person with close ties to Tarpley says teams are doing this legwork because they seem interested in adding him as soon as possible, to be included in their a playoff run."

"One friend says Tarpley is about 265-to-270 pounds, that he could play himself into shape in a month. There might be questions about whether he can still get up and down the court, but a 7-footer who can rebound and shoot has some value. Ex-NBA star and coach John Lucas, who runs a drug-treatment facility in Houston, has been supervising Tarpley for a year. Lucas told the Dallas Morning News, "He's doing what he needs to do. He might have the ambition to play basketball again.'' Can he still play? Skill-wise,'' Lucas said, "absolutely."

"Assuming that is true, the NBA is left to evaluate Roy Tarpley the person. The league could do worse than to speak to ex-teammate James Donaldson, who told us, "Roy is essentially a good person. He's the best player in Mavs history, in may opinion, but he's also somebody who knew he was doing wrong and at the time, just couldn't control it. Roy (years ago) told me, 'James, I wish I could be more like you. But I can't. I just can't.' So he knows the difference between right and wrong. It's just a matter of doing right."

A comeback after 10 years?
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