Will Bullets pull deal for Strickland?


TORONTO -- In Rod Strickland, the Portland Trail Blazers have a point guard that the Washington Bullets covet. The question is whether the Bullets are ready to relinquish their highest draft pick in nearly 20 years to get him.

The Trail Blazers and Bullets have been talking about a deal that would send Strickland and a first-round pick to Washington for the No. 4 pick and Rex Chapman or Calbert Cheaney, both shooting guards. Yesterday, a deal between Portland and the Detroit Pistons gave the Blazers a little more to bargain with.

Portland traded its two first-round picks (Nos. 18 and 19) to the Pistons for the No. 8 pick. And the Trail Blazers reportedly are talking to four teams ahead of them in the draft in an attempt to improve their position and draft high school star Kevin Garnett.

One of those teams is the Bullets. A source in Portland said the team has offered to package Strickland and the No. 8 pick to Washington for the No. 4 pick and Chapman, who was exposed in the recent expansion draft, or Cheaney. Another scenario has the Trail Blazers substituting Cliff Robinson for the draft pick.

Those were the topics of discussion yesterday, with talks between the two teams expected to resume today.

Bullets general manager John Nash was in meetings with his basketball staff most of the day yesterday and did not return calls to his office. But he has made it clear that the team needs to address its point guard problem in the off-season.

And both Chris Webber and Juwan Howard have said they would like to play with Strickland, who had several run-ins with Trail Blazers coach P. J. Carlesimo last season.

The Trail Blazers are in a rebuilding stage and are eager to land Garnett, a 6-foot-10 forward who was the high school Player of the Year at Farragut Academy in Chicago last season.

As a senior he averaged 25.2 points and 17.9 rebounds, and his stock has soared with workouts with various teams.

Bob Whitsitt, president of the Trail Blazers, has called Garnett "the wild card of the draft."

"Basketball-wise, he's got great potential, but you've got to look at everything," Whitsitt said. "It's an exciting, scary, risky, rewarding proposition, which is what makes our job fun."

The Bullets also completed a trade yesterday, swapping one of their two second-round picks (37th overall) to the Los Angeles Lakers for two second-round picks in next year's draft.

The Bullets also have the 32nd pick in tonight's second round.

Washington had acquired the 37th pick from Detroit.

"We think we'll have the opportunity to select a player at that position that could help our team," Lakers general manager Jerry West said.

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