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Jack McCallum
February 01, 1993
Whose Man Is Manning?
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February 01, 1993

The Nba

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Whose Man Is Manning?

The long-simmering Danny Manning-Larry Brown hostilities have cooled, but they are far from over. A few weeks ago Manning finally aired an opinion he had expressed privately for some time—that he would like to put miles between himself and Brown, for whom he played through four seasons at Kansas before Brown became his coach again with the Clippers on Feb. 5,1992. "It's time for me to get away from Larry Brown," Manning said. "We've been together an awful long time. Too long, actually."

That statement came a day before an early-morning shouting match between Manning and Brown in the lobby of a Milwaukee hotel on Jan. 9. Manning has publicly backed off his assertion that he wants to be traded, but don't believe him. Most insiders think that he finds Brown suffocating. "Danny sulks a lot, and that is a problem," says one general manager.

Maybe Manning and Brown could get along if the Clippers were fulfilling their ambitious preseason expectations, but with a mediocre 20-19 record at week's end they were not, and frustration was eating away at both the coach and his budding superstar.

Frustration is a way of life in Clipper-land, of course, but Manning is in position to get out. His contract expires at the end of this season, and Manning wants to then sign a one-year qualifying offer. That would make him an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, 1994, and both Manning and his agent, Ron Grinker, believe many teams would open up their wallets for the talented forward. Maybe so, but perhaps not as wide as Team Manning suspects. Grinker has kicked around a figure of $6 million a year, astronomical for a mediocre re-bounder and an unwilling defender.

On the other hand, Manning's passing skills and offensive versatility stamp him as a future All-Star. "He's a lot like Larry Bird," says Knick guard Doc Rivers, a teammate of Manning's last season. "You have to double him because he shoots so well. But trap him and he hurts you [with his passing]."

Timberwolf general manager Jack McCloskey has openly coveted Manning for a long time. (A Manning for Christian Laettner deal, in fact, is reportedly being discussed.) But Manning wants to play for a contender, and any noncontending team like Minnesota that might trade for Manning before the Feb. 25 deadline runs the risk of losing him after the 1993-94 season. Clipper general manager Elgin Baylor still hopes to sign Manning to a long-term deal. Grinker wants to move his client to a proven franchise—read the Celtics—but Boston is well above the salary cap and would have to do some creative maneuvering to find space for him.

Why can't Manning and Brown, who both seemed so happy when they led the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA title, get along? Well, Brown's constant carping has always worn thin on his superstars; his riding of David Robinson was a major reason that the Spurs fired Brown midway through last season. And superstars get nervous when someone constantly reminds them that he knows more basketball than they do. The trick, as coaches like Chuck Daly have learned, is to keep some of your knowledge to yourself.

Bad Move by Big Cheese

The new breed of NBA referee doesn't talk to coaches, players, fans or mascots, and often leaves the impression of being smug and aloof. In fact, most of the young referees stand at attention, like wooden soldiers, during timeouts. This type of behavior is, if not exactly mandated, then certainly encouraged by Darell Garretson, the league's chief of officials. (One of that new breed is Garretson's son Ronnie, whose arrogance has already alienated several NBA coaches; one team's staff refers to the Garretson's as God the Father and God the Son.) Considering what sort of behavior Darell wants from his refs, his actions at the Jan. 18 Nets-Pacers game at the Meadowlands Arena were all the more objectionable.

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