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The NBA
Jack McCallum
February 04, 1991
ISIAH IS GROUNDED
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February 04, 1991

The Nba

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OVER TO YOU, DK

Six months from now what one-two punch is likely to be the hottest in the NBA? Karl Malone and John Stockton? Drexler and Porter? Kevin Johnson and Tom Chambers? Nah, try this one: Benoit Benjamin and Don King.

Benjamin will be an unrestricted free agent by then, and King—or DK as BB refers to him—will be calling the negotiating shots as his agent. That's enough to give the average general manager pause: Benjamin, the 7-foot center for the Clippers whose considerable talents have never overridden his enigmatic inconsistencies, in concert with King, the master showman and manipulator whose controversial shadow looms over boxing.

Will BB get a nibble? "Are you kidding?" says one general manager. "They'll be beating down his doors." Even though one Western Conference coach disagrees, saying, "I wouldn't take Benjamin if he were dangled forever," most observers agree with the G.M.

Beyond the fact that 7-footers always get a lot of attention, Benjamin's play in recent weeks has been nothing short of sensational. At week's end, Benjamin was averaging 19.2 points, 3.1 blocked shots and a remarkable 17.5 rebounds in the Clippers' last 11 games. Seattle coach K.C. Jones calls these "wow numbers."

"Whatever the reason, I hope the streak continues," says Clipper coach Mike Schuler. "There is no question that Ben has the talent to do this every single night of the season."

He also has the talent to drive coaches, teammates and G.M.'s to distraction with his weight problems, susceptibility to minor injuries and sometimes passive play. Then there's the matter of BB's outrageous contract demand last season, when he stayed out of preseason camp and missed seven regular season games while trying to pry a reported $3 million out of the Clips. In November 1989 the Clippers gave him an incentive-laden one-year deal (with an option year) worth between $1.6 and $2 million per year; it expires at the end of this season.

DK became BB's agent shortly after Benjamin signed that contract and has since maintained a low profile around the NBA. But the expectation is that DK will make a lot of noise this summer in an effort to get Benjamin in the neighborhood of $4 million per year. The teams most likely to be interested are ones that have a veteran core to keep BB in line. The Lakers, in particular, have shown a lot of interest in the crosstown enigma. King going one-on-one with Laker general manager Jerry West—now there's a hair-raising prospect.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

By the time Magic Johnson got a load of Henry James on Jan. 11, the word was out. "Ah, there he is," said Magic as James, the Cavaliers' 6'9", 220-pound small forward, entered the game. "The jump-shooter." A week earlier, two other big names had greeted James less familiarly.

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