Bristow acknowledges that he's had preliminary discussions with Ellis about a new contract. "I don't want to jeopardize LaPhonso being here," he says. "But we have to find ways to increase our talent, and that might require a little give-and-take on both sides. It's a process."
The process includes dealing with McDyess's agent, Arn Tellem, whom Bristow once put in a choke hold during heated contract negotiations for guard Kendall Gill when Bristow was the Hornets' general manager. Both men insist that the incident is behind them. "I'm no threat," Bristow says. "Too old and too slow."
Tellem retorts, "Tell Allan I'm bringing in [my client] Albert Belle as my bodyguard."
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Utah fans, Jazz officials and forward Karl Malone are all steaming over remarks about their state made by Mavericks guard Derek Harper. When asked last week why he had declined a trade to the contending Jazz (for Greg Foster, Jamie Watson and a first-round pick) and elected to stay with Dallas, Harper replied, "You go live in Utah."
Jazz sources say that when the Mavericks played in Utah on Feb. 15, Harper told a number of Jazz players that he would love to finish the season with them. "That's an out-and-out lie," Harper says. "One of their equipment guys said he heard Utah was interested in me, and I told him I wanted to play for Houston." The Rockets offered Brent Price to the Mavs for Harper but would not give up Mario Elie.
"I'm sorry how this came across," Harper says, referring to his statement about Utah. "I wasn't trying to dis the state or the Jazz. I gave a flippant answer to a question. But what it came down to was, the people most important to me—my family—wanted to stay in Dallas."
This is the second time Harper has spurned Utah. Last summer, when he was a free agent, the Jazz offered him a two-year, $5.2 million contract. Harper's top choices were Miami and Orlando (he went to high school in Florida), but those teams couldn't carve out cap space for him. Around the same time, the Rockets asked him to be patient while they tried to use Sam Cassell as trade bait to acquire Charles Barkley from Phoenix, but Harper felt he couldn't wait. He signed with Dallas, the club that drafted him in 1983, for two years and $2.9 million. Harper accepted such short money, sources say, because he was assured he would receive a front-office or coaching position when his contract was up.
What Harper can forget about is a championship ring—which, for many years, he said was his goal. "I played for the championship in New York," he says of the '93-94 Knicks, who lost to the Rockets in the Finals. "We didn't win, but I was there. It wasn't meant to be."
Line of the Week
Portland guard Kenny Anderson, Feb. 28, versus Utah: 44 minutes, 11-16 field goals, 5-6 free throws, 30 points, 12 assists. Anderson led the Blazers to a 115-105 win over Utah.