On Feb. 16, 76ers general manager, Billy King phoned the home of forward Billy Owens. "His wife answered," says King. "She said, 'Have we been traded?' "
For the sixth time in Owens's nine-year career, the answer was yes. Owens was shipped to the Warriors along with budding star Larry Hughes in a three-way deal that brought forward Toni Kukoc to Philadelphia and sent John Starks and a conditional first-round pick to the Bulls. Owens, 30, was a throw-in to make the deal's salary-cap numbers work—he has two years left on his contract at $2 million per year—just as he was the last three times he was dealt (to the Sixers, the Magic and the Kings). In the cold business of NBA capology, Owens has become the ultimate pawn.
So the No. 3 pick in the 1991 draft, out of Syracuse, is on the move again. His wife, Nicole, is expecting twins on April 29 and can't fly, so she will stay behind in Philadelphia with their three-year-old daughter, Billie LaRa�. "That's the toughest part," Owens says. "My daughter wouldn't stop crying when I left."
Owens has played for Don Nelson, Pat Riley, Garry St. Jean (twice), Eddie Jordan, Paul Westphal and Larry Brown. He has been traded for both Grants—Harvey and Horace. "The problem for Billy is, his numbers fit and he's a really good guy," says the 76ers' King, "so when it comes down to it, people say, 'O.K., I'll take him.' "
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who believes that given the chance, Owens could have averaged 16 points and eight rebounds a night as a pro—he has averaged 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 30.5 minutes—finds his former player's nomadic career disheartening. "It's funny," says Boeheim. "I just talked to someone [with the Sixers] a couple of weeks ago, and he said Billy was doing everything they asked." Including packing his bags.