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Sampson Deal May Be Near


SACRAMENTO — Ralph Sampson reports to Arco Arena every day with the same hope.

"I've just been waiting," the Sacramento Kings' center said. "Every day I come in here and hope (player personnel director) Jerry Reynolds will come up to me and say, 'We traded you somewhere.' I just wish that could happen."

Sampson, 30, says his desire to leave the Kings has nothing to do with ill feelings toward the team or the city of Sacramento. He just wants to play and sees little chance of that happening with the Kings.

Sampson may or may not be traded, but he and the Kings may be getting close to an agreement that would allow the eight-year veteran to become a free agent, Reynolds hinted Monday.

"There's some mild interest in several places," Reynolds said, "but I don't think it's a trade possibility, so we have to look at other ways. For us, we'd have to get some help on the salary part of it, some restructuring (of Sampson's contract) to make it feasible for us. If we're going to help him and help another team, then we want to be helped."

Reynolds said Sampson has been good about the ongoing negotiations.

"I think it's pretty close to getting done," Reynolds said. "I think it's a fairly good possibility that something may work out by the end of the week. I know (managing general partner Gregg Lukenbill's) position is pretty clear.

"He wants maybe a little more compromise from Ralph or the other team," Reynolds said of Lukenbill, who did not return phone calls. "He wants, basically, a little fairer deal for himself."

Teams willing to gamble on Sampson want the Kings to carry the brunt of his $2.247 million contract this season and the remainder of the approximately $5.7 million owed Sampson the next two seasons.

"Some of the teams want us to carry all of it," Reynolds said. "Some are more realistic. I think it's getting closer with a couple of teams who are getting more realistic."

Sampson is willing to restructure his contract but is not willing to sit on the end of the Kings' bench.

"I play ball, and I was awarded my contract through my play," he said. "It had nothing to do with Sacramento. They accepted that, and they have to deal with it. They've talked about restructuring my contract.

"It's been talked about. From giving me land, from me extending my contract a number of years and decreasing the amount and from me taking deferred payments. If they want to deal, they can deal with me. I've got some smarts. If they want, they can sit down and talk to me or my agent (Pro Serv Inc.'s David Falk). And I will extend it, but it's going to cost.

"I would have to restructure to go somewhere else," Sampson said. "No, I wouldn't do it to stay here and not play. I wouldn't do it to stay here and play. Why should I? I wouldn't have to. I'm already here. I'm already on the team. (Lukenbill) doesn't want to back out on the contract; he just wants to decrease his responsibility for a number of years.

"He'll say, 'Well, we'll give you a piece of land, we'll buy you out,' " Sampson said of Lukenbill. 'We'll give you half the value of the contract and you go on about your business.' "

"That's impossible," Sampson said. "Why take half when you can get it all?"

Reynolds said Sampson may have to pay for his free agency and the accompanying ability to deal with any NBA teams. Whatever deal the Kings and Sampson reach, simplicity will not be an applicable description.

"This is not something you do quickly," Reynolds said. "I know fans will say just do it, but this is a major undertaking. Something where we can benefit somewhat and Ralph can benefit to where everybody thinks at least it's fair.

"That's where it is now," Reynolds said. "It's not quite fair for us and not quite fair for Ralph or what he thinks is fair."

Reportedly, the San Antonio Spurs and the Charlotte Hornets have expressed interest in Sampson. Reynolds said the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks also have shown mild interest.

"If Ralph were a free agent," Reynolds said, "there'd be some other teams that would be interested on a look-see basis. You know, prove it to me and then we'll do something.

"I think, which he understands, he would be in a very good position for himself if, in effect, he could become a free agent," Reynolds said. "What we're saying is for that possibility, it's going to cost you something."

If the Kings were to release Sampson, only half of this season's salary would be available to them under the salary-cap agreement.

Playing has not been a thrill Sampson has been able to enjoy this season. Coach Dick Motta has chosen to give Sampson only two minutes of playing time in one game of five. Some may speculate that the Kings are playing a waiting game with Sampson, hoping the center will get antsy sitting on the bench and ask for a deal in hopes of playing elsewhere.

But Sampson said he is patient.

Motta said he has not played Sampson because he does not figure into the team's youth movement.

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