Suits look good to Riley as way to stop deal-wreckers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

So Rony Seikaly gets traded from Orlando to Utah, and doesn't report within the allotted 48 hours. Kenny Anderson is not happy about his deal from Portland to Toronto and decides he won't report. Same for Doug West, an original member of the Minnesota Timberwolves who's not happy about his trade to Vancouver -- he cites an alcohol problem as his reason for not reporting.

Kind of makes you wonder who's running things in the NBA these days.

Coaches and owners are getting fed up with the trend of not reporting when you're not happy with the team you're being traded to. The Seikaly deal was eventually voided, and he later was traded to New Jersey. Anderson never set foot in Toronto after the deal, forcing his trade to Boston. And West said his planned rehabilitation likely will keep him out the rest of the season.

"One day -- and I can't wait for the day -- an owner is going to sue a player and his agent for damages, for killing trades or not wanting to go somewhere else," said Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. "One owner is going to win a lot of damages -- because it ain't right. In your contract, it says that within 48 hours you go. So if you're starting to blackmail people, then I think somewhere, somebody is going to get sued."

Maybe Riley is on to something. Surely threatening the three with millions in lost income would have had Seikaly loving the Salt Lake City scenery and West and Anderson humming the Canadian national anthem.

Anderson says it wasn't a matter of his not reporting after the trade.

"I wasn't traded to Toronto," Anderson said. "The bottom line is that they knew what they were doing when they got me. I don't have to answer that [refusing to report] because it didn't happen, so I don't have to get into that."

West, asked whether he'd report to Vancouver, said: "I doubt it. That will take us into April."

As far as the controversy with the Seikaly deal, the Jazz did sour on the trade. That was only because Seikaly never reported, which denied Utah's medical personnel a chance to examine his injured foot. The Jazz was notified that Seikaly's injury would take six to eight weeks to heal.

"We needed him now," Miller said, explaining that it was the Jazz that indeed voided the deal. "It may have had a different outcome had Seikaly shown up."

Sputtering Rockets

The thought was that the recent return of Hakeem Olajuwon would provide a cohesiveness for the Houston Rockets for the second half of the season. But Houston looked old in dropping three straight games (to Minnesota, New York and Washington) during a just-completed trip. The skid ended Thursday with a win home over the Timberwolves.

"Before this road trip, we were moving in the right direction," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said after an 18-point loss at New York last Sunday. "And now, it doesn't look like that."

As it stands now, the Rockets, with three future Hall of Famers, would get the eighth seed in the Western Conference -- likely meaning a series with Seattle and a quick exit. That's not what Tomjanovich envisioned.

"No, I didn't think we'd be here, and it's not going to get easier," Tomjanovich said. "We have to do it together, and that's going to take teamwork, communication, belief in one another and commitment. We just can't take the floor as individuals. We're not that good."

Whether the "belief in one another" will occur is unknown, especially with the reported bad blood between Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler this season. There are times when the Rockets are too predictable, throwing the ball into the post to Barkley or Olajuwon, with the rest of the team just watching. The ball movement that helped Houston win back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 no longer exists.

"I'm not sure what to tell you," Barkley said after the Rockets were blown out by Washington on Tuesday. "It's not good. It's just not good. Anytime you lose to a team like [Washington], that's not even going to make the playoffs, it makes you wonder."

Speaking of Barkley, he is somewhat amused about the attention he has been getting since his recent announcement that he has given up alcohol.

"It's funny to me that when I told people I was drinking too much, I was an alcoholic, which is not true," Barkley said. "I just felt like I was drinking too much. And the reason I stopped drinking is because I'm going to have a major decision in my life coming up if I'm going to continue playing. And I wanted to make sure I was in the best physical shape possible to see where my game is to make that decision."

Around the league

The trade that sent backup forward Jason Caffey to Golden State for David Vaughn did not sit well with the members of the Chicago Bulls. Caffey was effective as a backup to Dennis Rodman, while Vaughn -- probably best known as Toni Braxton's ex-boyfriend -- is playing for his third team in as many seasons.

"I don't know anything about Vaughn," Michael Jordan said. "Every time I've seen him, he's never been in uniform. I think that says a lot right there from my standpoint."

Added Rodman: "It was a dumb move. Does [Vaughn] play?"

Caffey is happy with the deal. The former Alabama star has two championship rings with the Bulls and was looking to go to a team where he can get more playing time and increase his marketability when he becomes a free agent at the end of this season.

Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson's take on why he didn't trade 7-foot-6 center Shawn Bradley: "I'm just not willing to give up on him yet."

Translation: No team was foolish enough to give up more than a six-pack for the human speed bump.

Atlanta Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo, returning to Denver on Wednesday to play against his former team, could not believe the lack of atmosphere. It was nearly four years ago that Mutombo and the Nuggets shocked top-seeded Seattle in the first round of the playoffs.

"I remember how we used to rock this house -- this house would be packed," Mutombo said. "Pitiful situation. I don't know what they're going to do."

Denver's record is 5-52.

In his first season in Philadelphia, coach Larry Brown has made five trades involving 20 players.

The recent trade for Joe Smith gives the Sixers three No. 1 picks on the roster (Derrick Coleman and Allen Iverson are the others).

Three cheers for the old guys. Orlando, whose five-game winning streak ended Friday in Toronto, has the oldest coach (Chuck Daly, 67), oldest starting point guard (Derek Harper, 36) and oldest starting center (Danny Schayes, 38).

Yinka Dare apparently doesn't know what waived means. Dare was traded by New Jersey to Orlando in the Seikaly deal, then waived by the Magic last Sunday. But Dare has continued to hang around the Orlando team and even tried to work his way into the team picture on Wednesday, asking the equipment manager if he could get his uniform.

Quotable

"SHAQ. We're the two that saw your movies."

-- Sign held up by a pair of fans in Orlando during last week's Magic-Lakers game.

Jerry Bembry's power rankings

Top 10

1. Chicago (1): Despite rare home loss, beginning to click

2. Seattle (2): League's best record

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

4. Miami (7): League-best nine-game winning streak with victory yesterday over Nets

DTC 5. L.A. Lakers (5): In midst of six-game trip

6. Indiana (6): Blowout of Blazers ended first real slump

7. Phoenix (8): Chance to climb hurt by loss to Sixers

8. San Antonio (3): Duncan playing well, but Robinson return needed

9. Portland (9): Followed big win over Bulls with 65-point loss

10. New York (--): Winning despite injuries

Bottom 5

25. L.A. Clippers (25): Beat Sixers to end six-game skid

26. Toronto (26): Team in turmoil

27. Golden State (28): Trades actually help this team

28. Dallas (27): Nelson has pretty much given up on season

29. Denver (29): Could they crack the NCAA Top 10?

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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