Rumors are rife, but only Lakers, Sonics make a deal


SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah is known as the Beehive State, but the bees were hardly buzzing when it came to making trades during the NBA All-Star weekend.

There were as many rumors as snowflakes, but the only swap to materialize found the Los Angeles Lakers sending veteran forward Sam Perkins to the Seattle SuperSonics for unsigned rookie swingman Doug Christie and backup center Benoit Benjamin.

A number of general managers did not even stay for Sunday's game, including the Washington Bullets' John Nash, who left after attending a rules meeting Friday.

"There's still time," said Nash, noting Thursday's trade deadline, "but right now, we've got nothing hot going."

Several prominent names mentioned as possible trade bait were a pair of All-Stars -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Danny Manning and Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Clyde Drexler -- plus high-scoring Kendall Gill of the Charlotte Hornets.

"I can't worry about such things," said Drexler, the Blazers captain who has been linked to rumored trades with the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. "I've been 'traded' six times since I've been in Portland. It's just part of the business."

The Clippers fear losing Manning, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season, and reportedly offered him to the Hornets for Gill, who has been grumbling while splitting time with Dell Curry.

Another familiar name mentioned at All-Star headquarters was Pistons forward Dennis Rodman, but his off-the-court problems have made rival general managers wary of dealing for the league's top rebounder.

Still, it has been reported that the Pistons will trade Rodman to the Clippers for two former Michigan players -- guard Gary Grant and power forward Loy Vaught -- and the Clippers' first-round draft pick.

There also was speculation the Blazers were ready to part with inconsistent center Kevin Duckworth, with the Pistons as the most interested party.

Asked if he would like to acquire the 280-pound Duckworth, Clippers coach Larry Brown, who has 300-pounders Stanley Roberts, John Williams and Elmore Spencer on his roster, said, "If I did, it would give me a bigger front four than any team in the NFL."

Standing Pat

It was only an exhibition game, but losing East coach Pat Riley was criticized for his substituting patterns in the 135-132 overtime loss to first-year Phoenix Suns coach Paul Westphal's West squad.

Riley was forced to explain why rookie center Shaquille O'Neal, who received more fan votes than his New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing, played so sparingly in the fourth quarter.

"Sometimes you make a decision to go with experience and the guys who have been around a long time," said Riley. "There was no blueprint. Shaq will have his turn in 10 or 15 more All-Star Games."

As things developed, Riley's decision proved correct. It was Ewing who hit the tying basket with eight seconds left, forcing overtime.

Harder for Riley to explain was why Mark Price, who had sparked the East's rally with 10 points in the fourth quarter, including half of his record six three-point shots, did not reappear until the final minute of overtime. Riley opted to go with the Pistons' Isiah Thomas, who scored only eight points in 32 minutes.

Junk the dunk?

The NBA is considering changing its All-Star format that consists of the Legends game, three-point shootout and slam-dunk competition.

The dunking show, in particular, is under fire, with high-profile players shunning the event. Many fans at the Delta Arena complained it has grown tedious with only so many ways to dunk. Someone suggested that blindfolds be given to the spectators rather than the contestants.

"The reaction we get from our television audience is still positive," said NBA publicity director Terry Lyons. "And we move the All-Star Game to a new site every year, and so the fans aren't as blase as the media.

"But we're still seriously entertaining alternative ideas for the Saturday show."

Among the best possibilities are a game restricted to NBA rookies and a one-on-one competition among the most recognizable stars.

Fog lifted

Utah playmaker John Stockton, who shared All-Star Game MVP honors with Jazz teammate Karl Malone, insists he plays by instinct.

Said Stockton: "If I stop to think about things too much, my brain clouds over."

Heading north?

The league expansion committee met here last weekend and received a formal bid from a Toronto group headed by businessman Lawrence Tanenbaum. Vancouver and St. Petersburg, Fla., also expressed interest, but the NBA seems to favor adding a Canadian team to its all-American, 27-city lineup.

Foreign flavor

The All-Star Game was televised to a record 118 countries in 23 languages with a potential viewership of 550 million households.

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