McCloud called McDyess's pager 25 times but didn't get a reply. At midnight Chapman scanned the lobby one last time and ran into Bryant, Dutt and Van Exel as they were checking in—without McDyess. "I went up to Tony Dutt," said Chapman. "He was wearing a Denver Nuggets sweat jacket. I asked him what was going on. He told me Antonio had made up his mind to play for Denver. I told Tony that I was O.K. with that, if it made Antonio happy. I mean, he's the sweetest guy in the world. All I wanted to know was why did they have to put him through all this?"
McDyess says he chose Denver because the Suns failed to showcase him in their offense last season. As for why he never hooked up with Chapman, Kidd and McCloud, McDyess says it wasn't until the press conference after he signed his new deal last Friday afternoon that he learned from a reporter of his former teammates' trip to Denver.
Dutt insists he did not with-hold any messages or information from McDyess. "The truth is, he was very confused," Dutt says. "He was being torn in a hundred directions. It was too much pressure for one kid to handle."
Asked what would have happened if he had met with the Phoenix players last Thursday, McDyess says, "I probably would have been more confused than ever. I love those guys."
But could they have changed his mind? "I don't know," says McDyess. "Maybe."
The Suns Also Rise Up
One day after McDyess signed with the Nuggets, the Suns landed a handsome consolation prize: free-agent forward Tom Gugliotta. He received a six-year contract worth $58.5 million, which was some $19 million less than he could have made by staying with the Timberwolves. It's also possible the Pistons would have thrown a better deal Gugliotta's way, but while he was weighing offers from the Suns and the Lakers, Detroit decided to fill its power forward spot with Loy Vaught, even if it meant overpaying him (five years at $23 million).
When the season opens, Vaught, 30, will attempt to become the first player in NBA history to play following spinal fusion surgery, which he had in December. Despite the risk, the Pistons figured it was better to have Vaught in the fold than to wait for Gugliotta and possibly come up empty. Detroit also acquired the injured Christian Laettner (torn Achilles; out until March) from the Hawks. "Loy's got a big jump shot, and he's a terrific rebounder," says Detroit coach Alvin Gentry, "and he's ours." ?
For more NBA news from Jackie MacMullan and Phil Taylor, go to www.cnnsi.com.