Not long after the Clippers had returned to Los Angeles Tuesday morning following a dismal two-week Eastern trip, they executed a much-discussed trade for Portland Trail Blazer point guard Darnell Valentine.
To acquire Valentine, who started for four seasons in Portland but recently fell into Coach Jack Ramsay's disfavor, the Clippers gave the Trail Blazers their first-round choice (obtained from Boston) in the next draft and agreed to switch second-round picks in the 1988 draft.
The Clippers do not have their original first-round pick this year, having traded it to Philadelphia in 1979 for Joe Bryant.
Carl Scheer, the Clipper general manager, said it took him "no more than a second" to complete Tuesday's trade, which management and Coach Don Chaney agreed upon after a quick evaluation of the Clippers' 1-6 record on the trip.
Valentine, in the final year of a contract that pays him $265,000 ($175,000 cash) is expected to arrive in Los Angeles in time for tonight's Clipper game against Seattle at the Sports Arena.
"This franchise is not going to be successful until it gets good players," said Scheer, who had been talking to Portland about Valentine for three weeks. "Point guard is not our most pressing area, but we would not have gotten a player of Valentine's quality with Boston's pick (which figures to be either 22nd or 23rd)."
The Clippers already have a well-known point guard in Norm Nixon, who made the All-Star team last season. But Nixon, 30, has been inconsistent after missing nearly a month of the season during his free-agent holdout and is not considered to be as good a defensive player as Valentine, 26.
Tuesday, Scheer denied that Nixon soon will be traded. It is known, however, that Scheer has been talking to several teams about Nixon and came close to a deal with New York last week.
"It's not a two-part deal," Scheer said. "There is no other deal for Norm Nixon. There will be plenty of time for both (Nixon and Valentine) to play. Chaney feels he can play both and keep both happy."
Valentine's acquisition leaves the Clippers with seven guards, three of whom are point guards. Scheer said he has not considered trading Franklin Edwards, who has been Nixon's backup. "But he's an attractive player," Scheer said. "We'll see."
The original scenario, which Scheer tried to play out while traveling with the club last week, was to have the Clippers first trade Nixon to New York for off guard Darrell Walker, backup center Ken Bannister and a second-round pick. Then, they would acquire Valentine to replace Nixon as the starting point guard.
Unless the Clippers trade Nixon, whose age and lucrative contract ($2.7 million over five years) scare off many teams, Nixon and Valentine will have to co-exist.
Nixon, when asked recently about the possibility of splitting playing time with Valentine, expressed concern.
But Scheer said: "If this team was 27-12 instead of 12-27 and was breaking up a good combination, I'd be concerned with the fact that Norm is concerned, if, in fact, he is. Nixon is concerned with winning, and, with Valentine, we're improving our team."
There are several reasons why Valentine became expendable. Ramsay felt that second-year man Steve Colter and rookie Terry Porter fit into his plans more than Valentine, and the coach also has had recent success using the tandem of big guards Jim Paxson and Clyde Drexler. Another factor is that Valentine will become a free agent after this season and would have sought a more lucrative contract.
More than three weeks have passed since Ramsay stated that Valentine would not play until he was traded. When it became obvious that Valentine was not going to be traded immediately, the guard approached Ramsay and asked not to accompany the team on the road or suit up for home games.
Valentine, who started the first 27 games for Portland before his banishment, was granted his wish but did make a brief appearance last Saturday night in New York against the Knicks because Paxson was out of the lineup with a minor injury. It turned out to be Valentine's final appearance as a Trail Blazer.
Said Valentine, in a prepared statement Tuesday: "The unfortunate thing was how everything unwound. It wasn't handled as well as I'd have liked it to be. I'm happy to be out. I was a marked guy."