Bullets may be backing off Longley as draft pick


CHICAGO -- Luc Longley, a 7-foot-2, 265-pound center from New Mexico, was rumored to be one of the players the Washington Bullets, with the eighth pick in the June 26 NBA draft, were interested in selecting.

But Longley, a native of Perth, Australia, said Washington, as yet, has not invited him for an interview or private workout, adding to speculation that the Bullets' interest is waning.

Longley was one of a number of potential lottery selections in Chicago yesterday, undergoing physicals and drug tests conducted by the NBA. But he did not plan to participate in the tryout camp for pro scouts beginning today.

"I've already visited with Orlando, and I got invited to talk with the Los Angeles Clippers," said Longley, who is rated the best big man available after Georgetown defensive specialist Dikembe Mutombo. "I'm confident I'll be picked in the bottom half of the lottery [six through 11]."

Longley has a busy summer work schedule planned in San Diego, with former NBA star Bill Walton as his mentor.

"I've heard people call me soft," he said. "But I was the backbone of my college team. I did whatever they asked of me, but it's difficult to score when you're being double- and triple-teamed."

Longley, 22, has his sights set on becoming the first Australian to play in the NBA. Forward Andrew Gaze, who starred at Seton Hall, failed in a tryout with the Portland Trail Blazers last year.

"The whole country looks at me as being a pioneer," he said."

Said NBA scout Marty Blake, "I like Longley. He's the best-passing big man I've seen since Red Kerr [who played from 1955-66]. Plus, he's got a hook shot that's almost extinct today."

* Trade rumors: The Indiana Pacers, who covert Nevada-Las Vegas forward Stacey Augmon, reportedly are talking to the Bullets about their eighth pick, offering reserve point guard Vern Fleming and forward George McCloud as bait. But the Bullets, said a team source, are looking for something more tempting.

* Fast thinking: The best chance for the Chicago Bulls to even the championship series tonight appears to be forcing the deliberate Los Angeles Lakers into playing an up-tempo game.

But, Bulls coach Phil Jackson said, it's not all that simple.

"It's going to be difficult because they have a guy in Magic Johnson who's been able to create tempo his entire career. But we'll still try to do the impossible thing of getting the ball out of his hands and playing at a quicker tempo."

* What, no tornado? Detroit Pistons assistant Brendan Suhr said the Bulls could face trouble in the off-season having to re-sign free agents John Paxson and Bill Cartwright, plus re-negotiating with a disgruntled Pippen. "It could be a holocaust in Chicago next year," said Suhr, ticketed to replace Chuck Daly as Pistons coach if Daly relocates.

But Bulls general manager Jerry Krause said he is optimistic about re-signing all three players. "Suhr ought to worry about his own holocaust in Detroit," he said.

Several Pistons, including James Edwards, John Salley and Vinnie Johnson, reportedly are on the trade block. Even team leader Isiah Thomas' name has been mentioned. But Thomas, who has veto power over any trade, said in The National, "I'm not going anywhere."

* Moment of truth: To keep themselves ready for Game 2 tonight, the Lakers watched Madonna's new movie, "Truth Or Dare." Said Lakers reserve Mychal Thompson, "Madonna will keep us focused. You can't get all keyed up and tight. We know how to relax."

* Taxing work: The Bulls' Michael Jordan said the job of guarding Johnson takes its toll on his offensive game.

"It's tough to guard Magic and then go down and be expected to carry the load offensively," Jordan said. "I don't want to get on the referees, but a couple of times I felt I played good defense on him and got called for fouls. But that happens when you play against a Magic. You have to take your bumps and bruises."

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