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Posted: Tuesday December 22, 1998 04:09 PM
McDyess, Pippen And Barkley? | Around The Rim
The game wasn't the only thing for the 16 stars at The Game
By Jackie MacMullan
"For me, the lockout has been both good and bad," Hardaway said before the exhibition at the Atlantic City Convention Center. "It gave me a chance to rest my knee and put some distance between me and all the controversy of last season. The bad part is, I haven't been able to prove to people I'm fine."
Hardaway accomplished at least that much last Saturday. Though he scored only three points on 1-for-6 shooting, he appeared fit and energetic. When he becomes a free agent next summer, Hardaway will want a bundle -- say, $15 million a year, assuming a new collective-bargaining agreement will allow teams to pay a player that much. He prefers to stay in Orlando, but he doubts that the Magic owners will break the bank for him. "The reason they left me out there on an island with this injury was because they didn't want to pay me," Hardaway said, "but I can put that behind me."
Penny was overshadowed in Atlantic City by the other Hardaway -- the Heat's Tim, who scored 33 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, to lead his team to a 125-119 win. He knocked down seven three-pointers and goosed the fans with a killer crossover that left even the man guarding him, Penny, grinning.
A crowd of 9,526, seemingly a generous count in the 12,000-capacity arena, greeted the players warmly. With the exception of Cavaliers forward Shawn Kemp, who looked to be carrying an extra 20 or so pounds, the stars were in good shape.
The most sobering aspect of the game was that it may have been a preview of NBA All-Star Games to come: Michael Jordan wasn't in uniform -- or even in the building. Instead, he was honoring a commitment he had made a year ago to play in a celebrity golf tournament near Palm Springs, Calif. According to Charles Barkley, who coached the winning team, the reason Jordan didn't attend was because he has been retired for months. "Why do I have to keep telling you people the same thing over and over?" asked Barkley. "Michael has done his part. It's over for him now. Can't y'all just leave the man alone?"
Not all the players were so understanding of Jordan's absence, particularly after he had participated in collective-bargaining negotiations and vowed to remain committed to the union cause, regardless of whether he plays this season. "I'm disappointed he's not here," said Karl Malone. "His agent [David Falk] is the one putting this game on. It would be like my guy, Dwight Manley, having a game in Vegas and me not showing up. There are other things I could be doing, too, but once I make a stand on something, I'm not going to do it halfway. It's my duty to be here. If Michael is retired, then fine, I can handle that. But if he's not...."
If he's not, it will thwart Malone's bid to become the NBA's signature star, a quest that in part prompted him to make the trek to Atlantic City. The Mailman acknowledged that he has thought a great deal about wanting to assume that lofty position, if, in fact, Jordan has played his last game.
The word in both locker rooms in Atlantic City was that Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell has been working out vigorously during the lockout and that he recognizes he must be on his best behavior to salvage his career. The lockout had no effect on Sprewell's suspension, which was for a period of one year dating from Dec. 4, 1997, not for a predetermined number of games, so he can resume playing whenever a labor agreement is reached. Sources in the Bay Area say Golden State will unload Sprewell as soon as it can.
The Warriors have talked to the Heat about trading Sprewell for forwards P.J. Brown and Jamal Mashburn, but Miami has also been in discussions with the Celtics about forward Antoine Walker. If a deal with the Heat doesn't happen, Golden State might ship Sprewell to the Spurs, who desperately want him. But San Antonio would have to put together a three-way trade, because the Warriors have no interest in Spurs Sean Elliott, Will Perdue or Chuck Person. Golden State will also check in one more time with the Pacers, who covet Sprewell but refuse to part with Antonio Davis. The Warriors would settle for Dale Davis, but Indiana balked once before on that swap.
Last May the leaguewide assumption was that Antonio McDyess, a third-year power forward, would re-sign with the Suns when he became a free agent in the summer. That's no longer the case. During the lockout McDyess, citing a desire for more attentive counsel, replaced agent Arn Tellem with James Bryant and Tony Dutt. He then told Phoenix he plans to test the market.
McDyess has told friends he wants to talk to the Nuggets, for whom he played during his first two seasons in the NBA, and is keenly interested in sitting down with the Rockets, who are also high on free agent Scottie Pippen's list. Phoenix could still re-sign McDyess, but the Suns no longer are the prohibitive favorite.
"The fact Antonio is unrestricted makes it foolish to say one team should have the edge over another," says Dutt. "The Suns have to understand that. If they felt Antonio was going to be their main guy, they should have locked him up last summer."
Some league observers believe the addition of McDyess and/or Pippen would signal the end of Charles Barkley's run with Houston. But Sir Charles, who also is a free agent and whose right triceps, which he tore last May, isn't fully healed, insists the Rockets want him back. "I'd be just as happy to stay in Houston, because I don't want to move again," Barkley says. "But only if they get some help. You're right about McDyess; they like him. If they got someone like him, I'd stick around. But I've been talking to six other teams. I can't tell you who they are, because it's illegal for me to talk to them, but I've told them it won't be about money. I want to get me a ring."
The Hawks are said to be the front-runners to sign free-agent small forward Rick Fox, who played for the Lakers last season for $1 million but will get a richer, multiyear deal this time. ... Whenever there's a vote on a new collective-bargaining agreement, it won't be a roll call of all the players. The union decided during its pep rally in Las Vegas in October to give its executive committee voting power. ... Team sources say the Clippers have settled on assistant Jim Brewer as their next coach, but they won't announce his hiring until the lockout is over. That way they will be able to save money by prorating his salary. ... The free-agent boards on at least four teams show center Isaac Austin heading to the Magic. "I've talked to him, and he wants to come," says Orlando's Penny Hardaway. ...
Patrick Ewing denies that the Knicks are freezing out forward Marcus Camby, who was acquired from the Raptors last June in a deal for the popular Charles Oakley . Nor, apparently, is Ewing rolling out the welcome mat. "Marcus and I work out at the same place, and I don't talk to him all that much, but that's because he's usually finishing up his workout just as I'm coming in, and it's hard to have a conversation with someone when you are on a treadmill," Ewing says. "Hey, we all know Marcus can help us. He's a good shot blocker, and we're going to push him. But you can only push a guy as far as he wants to be pushed."
Issue date: December 28, 1998
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