As deadline approaches, Bullets still ready to deal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

That Washington Bullets general manager John Nash has been working the phones talking to other GMs is not unusual. But the calls this week bring a certain sense of urgency.

The trading deadline is Thursday, with teams trying to make last-minute deals to better themselves for the rest of the season. The Bullets, despite their blockbuster trade earlier this season that brought in Chris Webber, are no exception.

"We've had discussions with several different parties," Nash said. "Whether we'll be able to make a deal in our best interests remains to be seen."

The two best interests for the Bullets are improvements at center and point guard. Washington would love to move disgruntled center Kevin Duckworth, but it's unlikely it will find any takers. A rumor involving the swap of Duckworth for Denver Nuggets reserve point guard Robert Pack makes little sense with the salary cap -- Duckworth's salary is $2.6 million this season compared to Pack's $1 million.

A story out of Minneapolis had the Bullets and Timberwolves exchanging their first-round picks from a year ago, swapping Calbert Cheaney for Isaiah Rider. Nash likes Rider's talent, and the Bullets probably would have taken Rider had they had the fifth pick in 1993.

"I don't want to talk about it," Nash said when asked about the proposed deal with Minnesota. "There's no denying Rider's a terrific player. But in fairness to them and to us, I have no comment."

The Timberwolves already have gotten involved in the trading game, sending the fourth pick in last spring's draft, Donyell Marshall, to Golden State for Tom Gugliotta -- which may be a prelude to another deal for Minnesota. Gugliotta, with his third team this season, and Christian Laettner both play power forward. There are rumors that either could be shipped to Philadelphia for Clarence Weatherspoon.

The trade that brought Clyde Drexler to the Houston Rockets (who sent Otis Thorpe to Portland) also may lead to another deal. Volatile guard Vernon Maxwell is serving a 10-game suspension for punching a fan. With the Rockets in need of a power forward, there are rumors that Maxwell could be shipped to Philadelphia for Scott Williams or to New Jersey for Jayson Williams.

The Nets badly need a shooting guard. But Maxwell in the same lineup with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson probably would force coach Butch Beard into retirement.

Matter of loyalty?

Kevin Loughery, fired last week as Miami Heat coach, accused his successor -- and his former assistant -- of being disloyal.

"I'm a little disappointed, in a way, because I think the most key thing to assistants that you hire is loyalty," Loughery said after Alvin Gentry was named interim coach.

Gentry had been in Phoenix during All-Star weekend, had met with interim GM Micky Arison and flown back to Miami on Arison's private jet. But he said the job wasn't discussed, and he was surprised when he was offered the position.

"It really bothers me because I know what Kevin Loughery did for me from a standpoint of letting me have a lot of freedom as an assistant coach," Gentry said. "And if I would have known this was going to cause so much friction, I'm not even sure I would have taken the job."

Kings' Grant stands out

The new breed of NBA players has been blasted for being selfish, greedy and immature. But don't include Sacramento Kings rookie forward Brian Grant in that group.

On the court, Grant, a 6-foot-9, 254-pound forward, has been the model of consistency and has played a big role in the Kings' rise to respectability.

Off the court, Grant has made news in Sacramento for paying for the burial of a slain foster child.

The 16-year-old girl was shot to death Dec. 30 by her foster father. When Grant heard that there was no money to pay for her burial, he paid the entire expense.

"I didn't know that little girl, but I'm an emotional person and what happened to her really got to me," Grant told a reporter in California. "I'm a Christian, and I believe she deserved to rest in peace."

Mark Bartelstein, Grant's agent, said, "That's Brian. He does that type of thing on a consistent basis."

All talked out

Could it be that Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill is less than perfect? Hill was taken aside by Joe Dumars and given a little friendly advice last week after the rookie missed practice last Monday to appear on the ESPY awards show and David Letterman's show.

Dumars apparently told Hill that his missing practice is unacceptable. The local media also took some shots at Hill, who was coming off his starting role for the East team in the All-Star Game.

"I'm out of the talk show business," said Hill, who had a 6:30 a.m. flight last Tuesday from New York to Detroit so he could make his team's shoot-around in preparation for that night's game against New York. "I don't want to do that anymore. Hopefully things will slow down now."

By the way, Hill played well last Tuesday, at one point hitting 11 straight shots in Detroit's win over the Knicks.

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