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Dalembert tells his side in Team Canada dispute

Samuel Dalembert didn't like reading and hearing about the negative, difficult, suddenly uncommitted member of Canada's national team he supposedly had become.

Samuel Dalembert didn't like reading and hearing about the negative, difficult, suddenly uncommitted member of Canada's national team he supposedly had become.

He didn't like reading and hearing that he was traveling with the team in Athens, Greece, at an Olympic basketball qualifying tournament with an entourage, that he had alienated his teammates by moving his group into a penthouse in the team's hotel headquarters, and that he had demanded more shots.

And, in a telephone call to the Daily News yesterday, he adamantly said he would not attempt to be reinstated with the team. The 76ers center, who achieved Canadian citizenship as a landed immigrant specifically to help Team Canada reach the Beijing Olympics, was dismissed from the squad by coach Leo Rautins before Wednesday's victory over Korea.

Rautins' decision came after a disagreement with Dalembert outside the team bus. Rautins stood by his decision, even though it meant Dalembert would not be available for today's quarterfinal against Croatia or any additional games. The Canadians need a victory today and one in the semifinals to become one of the three teams in the 12-country tournament to reach China.

"I'd be happy to represent Canada when things get more organized and structured," Dalembert said. "The guys [on the team] know I work hard. I wish them well, for Canada. I want them to win, to give Canada some pride, to go to the Olympics. But sometimes a man has to stand up."

Dalembert said it was "disappointing" that anyone would question his commitment to his adopted country, and to the team for which he has played in back-to-back summers after full seasons with the Sixers.

Dalembert said his so-called entourage included a close friend, his girlfriend, and his high school coach from Montreal and his wife.

"I don't have a 'crew,' " he said. "I have four nice people."

He said he upgraded his hotel accommodations when he realized his room was "so small, I could hardly walk in."

"I wanted to be comfortable," he said. "There were no mandatory team meals, and I couldn't eat some of the food, so I ate with the people with whom I was traveling. Four people. They came to the games. They were the only people in the arena cheering for Canada. It's amazing to me what I'm hearing.

"I had a bad game against Slovenia, but the coach wanted to talk to me 5 minutes before the bus left for the game against Korea. Why didn't he talk to me after the last game?"

He did not deny that voices were raised, and said Rautins asked him to leave the bus.

"I said, 'No, I'm playing for Canada,' " Dalembert said. "He asked me to leave again. I walked away."

Dalembert, angry and frustrated at how he has been portrayed, said that he and his group have changed hotels and that he planned to return to the United States in several days.

"Now I see why it has been so difficult to get [NBA] guys to play for Canada," he said. "I'm very disappointed. I know how to differentiate business and pleasure. This is children's stuff. I don't throw people under the bus. I don't trash the coach.

"But I read stuff that came from 'a source.' I like people to come forward. I heard that I'm a prima donna. Anyone who knows me knows I don't do that. I said I'd do anything to help raise money for Canada. I had one bad game, and I'm not committed? Please." *