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Washburn still plagued by problems

ATLANTA -- Chris Washburn, once a rising star with the Atlanta Hawks, panhandles for food and continues to battle a drug problem that called a time-out on his multimillion-dollar professional basketball career.

Washburn, 24, penniless and banished from NBA play until he can prove he no longer uses drugs, is reduced to begging for food and money from friends in Atlanta and hanging out where drugs are sold.

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So far, he has had two brushes with the law as he wanders around Atlanta and frequents the drug scene, but no major charges have resulted.

Washburn said he plans to enter the NBA's drug rehabilitation center in Van Nuys, Calif., for the third time in three years to try to kick a substance abuse habit and possibly get him reinstated in the NBA.

'Yeah, I'm going back out there,' the former North Carolina State University star told The Charlotte Observer Thursday. 'As a matter of fact, I'm going out there tonight.'

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Washburn has been arrested twice since October. In one arrest, DeKalb County police and a drug enforcement strike force found him in a group of drug dealers arrested in a sting operation for selling crack and cocaine.

Washburn, who was present in the apartment where the raid took place, was charged only with disorderly conduct and with giving police a false name.

'He didn't have any drugs on him,' said Police Sgt. Rodney Rancifer. 'He didn't have anything. He was flat broke.'

He was arrested three days before Christmas for trespassing at what police say is a drug-infested public housing project near the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta. Police said Washburn had been banned from the projects.

Trouble has followed Washburn, a 6-10, 260-pound gifted player, from the time he left Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy for Laurinburg Institute, saying he was tired of the discipline.

Seven games into his career at North Carolina State in 1984, he was suspended for stealing a stereo from a dormitory room. He was convicted of a misdemeanor.

In his rookie year with the Golden State Warriors in 1984, Washburn was tardy, missed practices and had his first stay with the drug rehabilitation program in Van Nuys.

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Traded to the Atlanta Hawks the next season, he had two drug relapses and was then banished from the NBA.

'I could care less if he ever plays basketball again,' said Hawks guard Doc Rivers. 'I just want him to get his life straightened out.'

To get another chance in the NBA, Washburn must show the league that he can be free of substance abuse and ready to play after two years.

Washburn has been staying with friends in Atlanta. His house in Woodstock, an exclusive northern suburb of Atlanta, is up for sale with a price tag of $399,000.

'Chris has stayed with us,' said Eric Rogers, a friend of Washburn's in Atlanta. 'We never let him stay on the streets.

'He never says what he's doing with himself,' said Rogers, recalling the last time he saw Washburn.

'He looked dirty. He had on clothes, but not what you'd usually see him dressed in. He's called me since then, since the first time I saw him. He'll just call and want to come down and maybe ask you for some money. It's just like he's living from day to day.'

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