When the New Jersey Nets offered Kenny Anderson a six-year, $40 million contract earlier this season, he declined it, saying he was looking forward to free agency. Yesterday, the team, looking to get something in return for a player it was destined to lose, dealt the former all-star guard.
Anderson, who was in Baltimore yesterday preparing for last night's game with the Washington Bullets, was traded to the Charlotte Hornets. It was a four-player swap, with Anderson and reserve guard Gerald Glass going to the Hornets for guards Kendall Gill and Khalid Reeves.
The trade caught few by surprise, as Anderson recently expressed his unhappiness with a team that earlier this season traded Derrick Coleman. Anderson and Coleman were first-time all-stars during the 1993-94 season, considered cornerstones of the franchise, but often the main culprits in the soap opera atmosphere that followed the team.
"Maybe change is good for a person," said Anderson, who left Baltimore yesterday afternoon. "I was here for five years and had some great moments. I was an all-star here, but you just couldn't help some of the things that happened."
Anderson and Coleman had helped the team to three straight playoff berths and, with Chuck Daly as coach, it seemed as if the Nets were about to recover from a string of seven straight losing seasons.
But Daly, unable to deal with the personalities, bolted after the 1993-94 season. And Anderson said the team never recovered from the death of shooting guard Drazen Petrovic in 1992.
"There was a cloud over us," Anderson said. "Drazen died, Derrick got traded. I was just talking with [agent] David Falk about the team we had when I made the all-star team. That was an incredible team."
Anderson was the top recruit in the nation when he came out of Archbishop Molloy High School in New York City and led Georgia Tech to the Final Four in his sophomore season. He was the second pick overall in the 1991 NBA draft.
He barely played as a rookie under coach Bill Fitch, but in his second season was among the league leaders in assists. He averaged 18.8 points in his third season, when he became an all-star.
But Anderson shot 41.7 percent that season, his second best as a professional (his best was 43.5 during the 1992-93 season). This season Anderson was shooting 37.6 percent and was often yanked in the fourth quarter of games.
"It wasn't like Kenny was having an all-star year," the Nets' P. J. Brown said when asked about the trade. "For Kenny, it was a distraction. Kenny couldn't give his best. Now he can have peace of mind."
Anderson will get the starting job with the Hornets, who have played this season without Muggy Bogues, who had off-season knee surgery. Bogues recently said he hopes to be back by Feb. 1, but the former Dunbar guard probably will return to a backup role.
What makes the trade surprising is that Anderson recently became a client of Falk's. The Hornets management had little success negotiating with Falk as they tried to sign a new deal for Alonzo Mourning, who was traded to the Miami Heat.
Falk reportedly has told Anderson that he can command a deal worth $10 million a year when he becomes a free agent after this season.