Falk has now agreed to cooperate on a sign-and-trade for Taylor, in part because what's good for the Clippers is now good for his clients. He is also recommending a coach. "They should hire John Lucas," Falk says of his former client.
This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Toronto's New Direction
One Carter Left Must Lead
In other NBA cities the hiring of 62-year-old Lenny Wilkens as coach might be seen as a step backward. Why hire yesterday's news when recently retired players such as Doc Rivers, Byron Scott and Scott Skiles are in vogue? But that's not the case in Toronto, where Wilkens is being hailed as a savior. The league's alltime winningest coach has brought instant stability to an expansion team that has gone through three first-time coaches in five years. "I'm really happy about Lenny coming here," says Raptors power forward-center Antonio Davis. "It's hard to gain respect around the league, and it's so easy to lose it. With one mistake, all your credibility can be shot."
Davis had good reason to worry about the Raptors. Their bright future seemed to be crumbling under Butch Carter even as he was coaching the team to its first playoff appearance last spring. Carter's ludicrous filing of a $5 million defamation suit against former Raptor Marcus Camby, which he quickly withdrew, was the least of his problems. More damaging was the mutiny he inspired among the Toronto veterans by citing their lack of leadership and cutting back some of their minutes. Then, in an attempt to quell dissent among the players, Carter shamelessly asked his bosses to grant him the title of general manager. That move was perceived as an attempt to undermine vice president and G.M. Glen Grunwald; it also gave free-agent swingman Tracy McGrady more reason to leave this summer for the Bulls or the Magic.
As Davis sat courtside watching the Finals last month, he realized just how far he had moved from Indiana in the last year—his former Pacers teammates had earned the respect of the league, while his current team was threatening to become a laughingstock. Though he admits he had serious issues with Carter, Davis says many in Toronto jumped to the inaccurate conclusion that he was calling for the coach's head. "I never said I wanted Butch to be fired, and I had two or three conversations with Butch when I told him that," Davis says.
The June 21 hiring of Wilkens helped put the Raptors on the offensive. Grunwald drafted Michigan State swingman Morris Peterson partly as insurance against McGrady's departure, and next month Grunwald hopes to sign a much-needed free-agent point guard. ( Anthony Carter and Mark Jackson are among the possibilities.) As for Davis, he is tentatively planning to sign a long-term deal with Toronto next summer.
The next stage in the Raptors' growth will depend upon their ability to sign 23-year-old superstar Vince Carter to a long-term contract after the season. In the meantime Davis suggests that Carter must show more leadership. "Vince is going to have to be real vocal to keep this team strong," Davis says. "There was a lot of pressure on him to do so many things last season, and I guess he would show how he felt by his facial expressions and by staying after practice to work on things. But he has to be the one to say something when things aren't going right and to say, This is how things are going to be. You don't have to be 100 percent right in what you say—the fact that you have an opinion shows leadership and that you care."
Suns' Surprising Pick
Is Everything Jake in Phoenix?
The draft was two hours old, and Iakovos (Jake) Tsakalidis was the only player left in the greenroom. Naturally, tears were flowing—but not from the eyes of the 7'3", 283-pound Greek center, who had been expected to go as high as No. 8 to Cleveland until the Cavaliers and others were scared away by AEK of Athens, which faxed a legal warning to teams that Tsakalidis has four years left on his contract. "I admit, I was crying because the whole thing is so unfair?' says Steve Costalas, one of Tsakalidis's Greek representatives. It might have been the first time in greenroom history that a snubbed player had to comfort his agent.