Worst Personnel Move: By Pistons executive vice president and general manager of basketball operations Rick Sund, who signed Clippers free agent Loy Vaught, fresh off spinal-fusion surgery, instead of Suns free agent Clifford Robinson, who can guard three positions, shoot threes and wanted to sign with the Pistons. Vaught averaged 3.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game through Sunday; Robinson re-signed with the Suns and averaged 16.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
Best Defense: The full-court press the Nuggets put on free agent Antonio McDyess, preventing his former Phoenix teammates, who flew on a chartered plane to Denver and sat for three hours huddled outside McNichols Arena in a snowstorm, from seeing him until after he signed.
Worst Offense: The Chicago Bulls. Take away two legs of a triangle offense and you have...a flat-liner.
It's no fun being Wally Walker. The Sonics president and general manager has been hammered by his former coach, George Karl, whose cultlike popularity in Seattle grows with each Sonics loss under new coach Paul Westphal. With Seattle struggling (23-25 at week's end), such occasions have been all too frequent this season.
Walker has been blasted for pushing Karl out, overpaying free-agent center Jim McIlvaine (who has since been traded) and allowing free agent Greg Anthony to sign with Portland for $1 million, where he has become a valuable backup to Damon Stoudamire. So the last thing Walker needed was for a local newspaperman to overhear Gary Payton's postgame tirade after a 35-point loss to Portland on April 28, and write that Payton had said, among other things, "I don't care about Wally." The implication of the story was that Payton was blaming this season on Walker.
Within hours, Payton angrily denounced the account (his teammates backed him up), and said he does not have issues with Walker. "If I did," Payton said, "I'd talk to him about it." Payton also refuted a recent published report that he would demand a trade.
Payton may not be railing against Walker or ready to walk, but he is clearly frustrated by the Sonics' downward spiral. "Gary is an emotional guy," says his agent, Aaron Goodwin. "He likes Seattle. He just doesn't like losing."
Payton has made it clear he would like to see changes in the Sonics' roster this summer, and Walker will try to oblige him. Vin Baker will be a free agent, and even in the wake of his injury-plagued season, resigning him will be the Sonics' top priority. Walker says he talked to his power forward last week, and that "Vin told me he wants to stay here."
Goodwin, who also represents Baker, says, "We haven't talked about anyone but Seattle."