Karl says he's "happy and hopeful" of completing a new deal with Seattle, although he admits the uncertainty about his future has been difficult, "I believe in loyalty," he says. "I want it to work out here, but I think there needs to be some commitment." And if there isn't, would he in fact sit out a year? "It's a lot closer to the truth than people realize," he says. "I have a 12th-grader at home who would love to spend the year with me. People think I'm just saying that, but nobody knows what I'm going to do. Sometimes a year away from ail of this sounds like the best thing."
If Karl were a free agent, he would attract offers. The Hornets, for one, would have loved to hire him. Would the Sonics release Karl from the option year if so requested? "I'm unwilling to deal in the hypothetical." answered Walker.
New York State of Mind
With the Knicks possibly dropping as much as $9.5 million under the salary cap, expect some significant changes in New York this summer. A replacement for coach Jeff Van Gundy, however, does not appear to be one. The Knicks, whom the Bulls eliminated from the playoffs on May 14, need new players, not a new coach. And last week All-Star center Patrick Ewing threw his considerable support behind Van Gundy, who replaced Don Nelson on March 8 and went 13-10 during the rest of the regular season. Ewing's 1995-96 salary of $18.7 million shrinks to $3 million next season, thus making him tradable—but he won't be sent packing, either. The New York front office already rejected the idea of jettisoning Ewing when it fired Nelson, who favored such a move. "I hope Patrick Ewing finishes his career in a Knicks uniform," says general manager Ernie Grunfeld.
New York does hope to move at least one and preferably two players from among forwards Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley and guard John Starks. When the Knicks were peddling Starks just before the trading deadline in February—and they were offering to absorb a large chunk of his salary if that would help to move him—there were no takers. The New York roster is screaming for a consistent scorer; the Knicks like free-agents-to-be Reggie Miller (now with the Pacers), Juwan Howard (Bullets), 2 Allan Houston (Pistons) and Latrell Sprewell ( Warriors).
The Knicks will also be on the lookout for a starting point guard. Free agent Derek Harper, who will turn 35 in October, has probably played his last game for New York. "It's highly unlikely Derek will be back," says his agent, George Andrews. "The Knicks have had all season to do something, and they still haven't made him an offer. It's gone beyond disrespectful." Harper would consider returning to his home state, Florida, where he could be reunited with former Knicks coach Pat Riley in Miami.
Around the Rim
Panathinaikos of Greece won the European championship behind the play of former Hawks star Dominique Wilkins and ex-Celtic Stojko Vrankovic, but Panathinaikos officials were seething after Wilkins bolted the team last week in the middle of the Greek championships to have his strained left Achilles tendon checked by doctors in the U.S. Wilkins is scheduled to make $3.5 million next season, but a buyout might be in the offing. Meanwhile Vrankovic, a 7'2" center, is being wooed by the Bucks and the Cavaliers. Cleveland is the front-runner, particularly if Chris Ford winds up as the Bucks' coach. He and Vrankovic clashed when Ford coached Boston....
Sources say the Rockets have interest in dealing for the Suns' Charles Barkley and might be willing to part with forward Robert Horry to get him....
Look for the Hornets to buy out 42-year-old center Robert Parish for $1 million instead of picking up his $3 million option.