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Seattle's Bold Move
The trading deadline passed at 9 p.m. EST last Thursday with only one significant deal: center Benoit Benjamin went from the Clippers to the Sonics for center Olden Polynice and first-round picks in 1991 and '93 or '94. By deciding to skip the bidding for Benjamin when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Los Angeles chose to continue its never-ending search for tomorrow. It has now stockpiled six first-round picks for the next three years.
Seattle, which failed to make the playoffs last season, needed to peddle for the present. Sonics president Bob Whitsitt has retooled his team over the past several months, first dealing Xavier McDaniel to the Suns for Eddie Johnson and two No. l's, and then trading Dale Ellis to the Bucks for Ricky Pierce. Acquiring Benjamin gives Seattle the oomph it needs in the middle.
True, Seattle is callow; four of its starters—Benjamin, forwards Shawn Kemp and Derrick McKey and guard Gary Payton—average just 23.3 years old. However, coach K.C. Jones has veterans in Pierce, Johnson, Michael Cage and Nate McMillan (average age: 29.3). That mix means Big Ben will only have to play, not lead—a role he never fulfilled in his laid-back days in L.A.
Flash back to the Clippers' home loss on Dec. 14,1988, to the Heat, which had entered the game winless in its first season in the league. A half hour afterward, L.A. forward Ken Norman was slumped over in the locker room, still in his uniform, while Benjamin was in his street clothes and ready to go. Spying the disconsolate Norman, Big Ben said, "You've got to learn to be more casual."
They are 6'7", 25-year-old shooting guards on the spindly side who were first-round draft picks in 1987 and have the same first name. The Pacers' Reggie Miller emerged as an All-Star last season by averaging 24.6 points and making a league-high 150 three-pointers. The Celtics' Reggie Lewis has blossomed this season; having shifted from small forward, he was averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds through Sunday. Such similar bios boded a close call in our poll of general managers and coaches, and it was. Of those voting, nine preferred Miller, eight went with Lewis, and two viewed them as similar as Siamese twins.
Those favoring Miller like his touch from behind the arc (61 treys, to zip for Lewis this season) and his knack for getting to the foul line (403 free throws, versus 236). "That's a part of the game that's underrated, getting to the line, especially when you're as good [91.3%] a foul shooter as Miller is," says one coach.
Some voters took into account the Reggies' respective teammates. "I've got to go with Miller," said one general manager. "As good as he is now, if he were with [the Celtics], he'd be...whew!"