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Just why did Seikaly deal go sour?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

It would have appeared to be pretty much of a no-brainer for Rony Seikaly. A deal had been made to send him to the Utah Jazz, a team that last year extended the Chicago Bulls to six games in the NBA Finals. Playing alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton, Seikaly -- who was not going to the playoffs with the Orlando Magic -- was as close to a title as he would ever realize.

But the deal fell apart Wednesday. The Jazz said that Seikaly and his agent failed to communicate with the team. Seikaly -- perhaps in an attempt at spin control -- said on Friday that Utah was scared off by the deal because of a stress fracture in his foot that could keep him out for four weeks. Seikaly eventually was traded to the New Jersey Nets on Thursday for Yinka Dare, Kevin Edwards and David Benoit.

If what the Jazz says is true, Seikaly's actions are just the latest demonstration of misplacement of priorities of today's athletes. There were reports in Utah that Seikaly wanted the last two years of his contract guaranteed, and the Jazz appeared to be willing to do so. But there was no communication from Seikaly's camp, and a disgusted Orlando general manager John Gabriel was forced to void the deal.

"I don't know what Rony was thinking," said Orlando guard Nick Anderson. "It sounded like a good situation, a chance to play with a couple of legends and maybe win a championship in Utah. Maybe he just doesn't like the snow."

If Seikaly's silence did lead to the deal being voided, it marked the second time in two seasons that Utah was spurned by a player who could have made a big difference during the playoffs. Last year Derek Harper, now with Orlando, turned down an opportunity to play with Utah for the last half of the season. "You go live in Utah," was Harper's response to the proposed deal.

Malone, who spoke to Seikaly by phone after the trade and thought the center was eager to play in Utah, placed the blame on agents.

"I don't trust agents," Malone said. "I don't like them. I've seen a lot of guys' careers turned upside down by them."

Jazz owner Larry H. Miller didn't sound like a guy who put the stop on the deal when he said: "Rony is saying all the right things. Saying he wants to win a championship, saying he wants to play with Hall of Famers like Karl Malone and John Stockton. And then his agent says he's not coming. Maybe we learned something about the guy that we didn't know."

Seikaly, speaking to the New Jersey media Friday, said it was the injury to his right foot that voided the deal.

"It would have been an honor for me to play with Karl Malone and John Stockton and to play for Jerry Sloan," said Seikaly, his foot in a cast. "That's why I was surprised [the deal was voided], and Karl knows I wanted to play with him."

Regardless of what happened, the deal works out perfectly for the Nets, who gave up next to nothing in solidifying their front line. The acquisition of Seikaly allows Jayson Williams to be moved to his natural position of power forward.

The Nets, who are five games behind the Miami Heat in the Atlantic Division, could challenge for the No. 2 seed in the East when Seikaly suits up.

Nelson keeps dealing

Dallas Mavericks general manager Don Nelson, as promised, dealt Dennis Scott to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday for Cedric Ceballos. Nelson had made it known that the Mavericks would not re-sign Scott for next season and told the former Orlando forward that he would move him to a playoff team.

So, how has Nelson done in his one year as Mavericks GM? He has traded nine players: Scott, Jamal Mashburn, Sam Cassell, Chris Gatling, Eric Montross, George McCloud, Jim Jackson, Ed O'Bannon and Derek Harper. Seven of those nine are playing quality minutes, and only O'Bannon is out of the league.

In return, Nelson has received Kurt Thomas, Martin Muursepp, Sasha Danilovic, Shawn Bradley, Robert Pack, Khalid Reeves and Ceballos. Only Bradley and Reeves see considerable playing time; Muursepp is a little-used reserve, Danilovic is out of the league, and Pack and Thomas are injured.

How does Nelson, whose team is 18-72 since he took over going into last night's game against Detroit, think he has done?

"I'll let you guys grade me," he told reporters in Dallas last week.

Seems here "F" is the only logical grade.

Unhappy Stackhouse

Unhappy that he was not a part of a deal was Detroit Pistons guard Jerry Stackhouse, who thought he found happiness when he was dealt by Philadelphia in December. Stackhouse is coming off the bench with the Pistons, which is not exactly helping his statistics or his bargaining position for this summer, when he can sign a new contract. Stackhouse is trying to get into the $7 million-to-$8 million-a-year neighborhood that was once occupied by great players.

"If that's how I'm going to be used the rest of the season, then, yeah, it's beneficial to me [to be traded]," Stackhouse said before the trading deadline. "I feel I can thrive in this situation if I'm involved."

Stackhouse, the third pick of the 1995 draft, is averaging 10.6 points. He is shooting 38.1 percent from the field, and has never shot better than 41.4 percent in his brief career.

Around the league

Kudos to the Denver Nuggets. Obviously satisfied with their 5-48 record, they stood pat and made no deals before the trading deadline.

"Our owner wants to avoid the record," said interim general manager Mike D'Antoni, referring to the record for fewest wins in a season, nine by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.

Indiana coach Larry Bird has used Jalen Rose a little at the point this year, and said that's the position he could eventually settle into.

"I'd like to see him lead our team to a championship at the point," Bird said. "He's big, quick. He can handle the ball, he can make plays. Of course, he's got to get a little better on the defensive end. But you can't beat the size that he's got."

Magic Johnson is negotiating to sell back his 5 percent ownership of the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson, a vice president, is looking to enter the lucrative field of athlete management and needs to divest ownership.

Bulls forward Dennis Rodman missed the team's morning shoot-around before last Sunday's nationally televised game against the Pistons. Rodman said he lost the keys to his truck and couldn't make it to the session.

You would think making $9 million this year, Rodman would have a second car.

Quotable

"That was a disgrace. They've got young guys, and they're just going through the motions. Usually, young guys are hungry. I feel bad for the fans because those people paid good, hard-earned money to see this."

-- Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley, after the Rockets defeated the Clippers, 121-99, on Monday.

"He had manicured nails, and I bite mine. He was more polished at 17 than I am in my mid-30s."

-- New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, on his memory of the pre-draft workout of Kobe Bryant.

Jerry Bembry's power rankings

(Last week's rankings in parentheses)

Top 10

1. Chicago (5): Best in East, still average road team

2. Seattle (1): Opening gap on Lakers

3. Utah (4): Disappointed by voided Seikaly deal

4. L.A. Lakers (2): Lack consistency

5. San Antonio (6): Hasn't beaten team above .500 since Jan. 24

6. Indiana (3): Big matchup with Lakers on Wednesday

7. Miami (7): 2-0 on four-game West Coast trip

8. Phoenix (8): Beat Lakers, Spurs last week

9. Portland (9): Stoudamire could vault team among West elite

10. New Jersey (10)): Atlantic Division title no longer a dream

Bottom 5

25. L.A. Clippers (26): Austin trade helps

26. Toronto (--): Trades didn't yield much

27. Dallas (27): Five-game trip starts next week

28. Golden State (28): Weatherspoon adds needed toughness

29. Denver (29): .094 winning percentage

Pub Date: 2/22/98

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