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Wednesday, August 4, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 162

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NBA teams get busy as free agent signing season begins with someone hoping to find a lucky Penny

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Sports Editor 

As the clock struck midnight Sunday, NBA teams were given the go to sign free agents, offer trades and make any other kind of transaction necessary to complete their rosters for the 1999-2000 season.

So far, the biggest move has been the trade that sent Jim Jackson and Isaiah Rider to Atlanta while Steve Smith and Ed Gray were shipped to Portland.

The Blazers, who were swept last season in the Western Conference Finals by the San Antonio Spurs, also gave former first-round pick Jermaine O'Neal a contract extension while signing free agent Detlef Schrempf, formerly of the Seattle Supersonics.

It is rumored that the Hawks, who are iffy about Rider's conduct, may be trading the disgruntled guard to the Los Angeles Clippers for forward Lorenzen Wright. Rider was suspended for three games last season due to behavioral conflicts with team management and the league.

Making news Tuesday was the six-player deal that sent Celtics Ron Mercer, Popeye Jones and Dwayne Schintzius to Denver for Danny Fortson, Eric Washington and Eric Williams.

Fortson adds more bulk and finesse to Boston's low-post game, which now forms a talented frontcourt of Fortson, Antoine Walker and Vitaly Potapenko. For the Nuggets, Mercer will add more athleticism to a lineup that already includes Antonio McDeyes and Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets are also expected to re-sign point guard Nick Van Exel.

In not-so-surprising news, the Jazz re-signed their franchise player, Karl Malone, to a reported four-year $66 million contract. Also, the Nets re-signed forward Keith Van Horn to a reported six-year $73 million deal.



Former Cougar Bo Outlaw (45) re-signed with the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. Terms to his contract were not disclosed.


File Photo

Orlando re-signed UH alum Bo Outlaw, a free agent who was being pursued by the Lakers, Jazz and Rockets, among others. Outlaw has been one of the Magic's best players since first signing with the team two years ago. He played part of his career with the Clippers, but has blossomed into one of the best defenders in the league while with Orlando.

The biggest news, however, has been the buzz surrounding the things that haven't happened. This year's free agent signing season has been dubbed "The Penny Hardaway Sweepstakes." Hardaway, Orlando's All-Star guard, has made it known to the league that he would like to play elsewhere if the Magic won't present him with a huge contract.

Easily the most attractive free agent this season, Hardaway will run into the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement, which only allows the Magic to pay him more money than any other team. If Hardaway chooses to go elsewhere, a sign-and-trade deal would most likely take place as Orlando would sign him to a large contract and trade him to a team for a player or players whose salary or salaries come within 15 percent of Hardaway's new contract.

The biggest rumor involving Hardaway claims that the Lakers are interested in acquiring him. Such a move would reunite former Magic All-Star Shaquille O'Neal with his former teammate. The two led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995. The sign-and-trade deal would most likely involve Glen Rice going to Orlando.

That rumor has fizzled down a bit due to reports that Rice and Lakers general manager Jerry West have agreed that Rice belongs in a Laker uniform and that a trade is unnecessary. It is highly unlikely that the Lakers would trade either Kobe Bryant or O'Neal, the only other attractive players on the Lakers' roster, before they trade Rice.

Toronto and Chicago, the only other teams with enough money to sign Hardaway to a large contract, look to have the best chance in acquiring the guard via free agency, but there has been talk that Phoenix is interested in a sign-and-trade deal. However, the only way the Magic will send Hardaway to the Suns is if Phoenix gives up Tom Gugliotta, but that is highly unlikely, as well.

Another rumor floating around has Magic guard Nick Anderson all but surely going to the Sacramento Kings for Tariq Abdul-Wahad. As of late Tuesday afternoon, no deal was finalized.

As for the Rockets, it was looking as if trade talks involving Scottie Pippen were dying down when he told a local television station that he wanted to remain in Houston. However, according to a radio station in Chicago, Pippen was quoted in an interview saying that he would be interested in playing for former Bulls coach Phil Jackson in Los Angeles.

Jackson, who was recently hired by the Lakers, has openly commented on the fact that he would love to bring Pippen to the Lakers to run the triangle offense that made Michael Jordan, Pippen and the rest of the Bulls so unstoppable in the early and late '90s.

Again, such a move would have to involve Rice and perhaps Robert Horry, so if there is an agreement not to move Rice, then a Pippen deal is out of the question.

The Rockets still have some free agents to take care of, including Sam Mack and Charles Barkley. There have been reports that Toronto is interested in acquiring Mack, but the Rockets plan on signing him to a more lucrative contract.

Barkley has told everyone in the NBA that numerous teams, including the Sonics, Lakers and Jazz, have contacted him about his services, but only the Rockets can pay him more than the $1 million that those other teams can offer. Houston is rumored to have a $12 million contract on the table.
 

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