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BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: Former Auburn hoops star arrested for point-shaving; Hawks fined for tampering by NBA

Former Auburn guard Varez Ward denies he tried to fix games while at Auburn, which suspended him Feb. 25 and he never returned to the team.

Former Auburn guard Varez Ward denies he tried to fix games while at Auburn, which suspended him Feb. 25 and he never returned to the team.

AUBURN, Ala. — The struggling Auburn University men’s basketball team already has its share of woes after six straight losing seasons. Now this.

Former guard Varez Ward was arrested and indicted late last week, charged with allegedly trying to shave points in games during the 2011-12 season, as well as trying to recruit teammates to help by offering them money and bribes. Ward pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Attorney George Beck Jr. charged Ward on counts of bribery relating to a sports contest and conspiracy for allegedly trying to fix the point spread for Auburn’s game against Arkansas on Jan. 25, 2012. The U.S. Attorney’s office also claims that Ward’s scheme continued after that game. Ward was mysteriously suspended Feb. 25 just before the rematch with Arkansas — the school cited the reason as simply being a violation of teams rules — and did not play another game for the Tigers. The U.S. Attorney’s office praised Auburn for its cooperation in the investigation.

If convicted, Ward faces up to five years in prison and a fine as high as $250,000.

Ward didn’t do much to affect the game in question — he came off the bench, played just 19 seconds and then left with a leg injury.

HAWKS FINED FOR TAMPERING WITH HOWARD, PAUL:

Three NBA teams were fined for tampering, USA Today reported Monday.

The information was based on a league memo obtained by USA Today, and although the names of the teams have not been made public, a source told the newspaper that the Atlanta Hawks are one of the teams that’s been fined.

In a statement sent to USA Today, the Hawks said, “We fully understand and respect the NBA’s decision.”

The amount of the fines is unknown at this point, and there is a wide range of penalties the NBA can levy against offenders. Fines for tampering can reach $5 million.

The memo said teams were fined because “The conduct at issue involved statements by a team employee to the media, a team email to prospective season ticket purchasers, and articles posted online on a team website, each related to players who are currently under contract to other teams but who will become free agents this summer.”

A Hawks employee had sent a notice to season ticketholders that said Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Lakers center Dwight Howard might be signed by the Hawks.

According to league rules, “Article 35A of the NBA Constitution states that it’s a violation of the league’s anti-tampering rule for any person affiliated with an NBA team to directly or indirectly (i) entice, induce, or persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any player, coach, GM or other person under contract to any other NBA team to enter into negotiations for or relating to that person’s services or to negotiate or contract for such services, or (ii) otherwise interfere with the employment relationship between that employee and the other NBA team.”