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Hardaway Heads for the Heat in Trade

Pro basketball: Laettner and Owens also involved in deals on a busy day in NBA.

February 23, 1996|From Associated Press

Tim Hardaway, Christian Laettner and Billy Owens were the biggest names to move Thursday on one of the busier NBA trading deadline days in recent years.

Six deals involving 19 players were completed, with the Miami Heat making three trades.

The Heat added forward Walt Williams, forward-center Chris Gatling and guards Hardaway and Tony Smith.

The Atlanta Hawks acquired Laettner from the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Toronto Raptors picked up Sharone Wright from Philadelphia.

The biggest non-trade involved the Portland Trail Blazers, who failed to deal disgruntled guard Rod Strickland or forward Clifford Robinson. Strickland was suspended for one game by the Trail Blazers after he stormed off the court during warmups Thursday night.

"It did seem busier than usual," said NBA attorney Joel Litvin, one of the lawyers in charge of approving deals.

"It's a frenetic day and always is. Whether or not you have a lot of trades that take place, you have a lot of teams running trades by you. We're on phone all day with GMs."

Miami made all three of its trades within two hours of the 9 p.m. EST deadline. The Heat picked up Hardaway and Gatling from Golden State for power forward Kevin Willis and guard Bimbo Coles, then acquired Williams and Tyrone Corbin from Sacramento for Owens and Kevin Gamble. Miami also added Smith, the former Laker, from Phoenix for rookie Terrence Rencher.

"Today obviously was a day that I felt was coming all along if we had the opportunity to improve the position of this team," Miami Coach Pat Riley said. "It was a very difficult day for me personally."

The Hawks and Timberwolves beat the deadline by several hours. Atlanta picked up centers Laettner and Sean Rooks for center Andrew Lang and point guard Spud Webb.

Kevin McHale, Minnesota's vice president of basketball operations, said he was hoping to improve the team's chemistry.

"Everybody's got to understand there are roles that need to be played in the context of the team," McHale said. "If people don't accept that or don't understand that, it ends up being [conflict] all the time."

The 76ers sent Wright to the Raptors for forwards Ed Pinckney and Tony Massenburg, a former Clipper. The 76ers also acquired the right to swap first-round draft picks with Toronto this year or in 1997.

"This was also done to free up money so that we could go after a quality group of free agents," said John Lucas, the 76er coach and general manager who signed Wright to a six-year, $21-million contract which still has four years to run.

Pinckney and Massenburg will be free agents at the end of the season.

The Orlando Magic acquired Kenny Gattison and a second-round draft pick from the Vancouver Grizzlies for Jeff Turner. Gattison is expected to back up Shaquille O'Neal at center and Horace Grant at forward during the playoffs.

The Grizzlies had three second-round picks in the 1996 draft, having earlier obtained selections from Washington and the New York Knicks. Orlando will get the worst of the three.

Gattison is out because of a pinched nerve in his neck and Turner is rehabilitating a knee injury. Both must pass physicals before the trade is completed.

Laettner has been one of the most consistent Timberwolves since they drafted him from Duke in 1992, but he also has been one of the most outspoken.

This week, when he criticized prized rookie Kevin Garnett and the rest of the organization, Laettner's relationship with some other players reached the breaking point.

"I wasn't pleased at all with what he said," said Doug West, the only original Timberwolf. "People were still OK with him, but everybody was just more quiet toward him."

With a 15-36 record, the Timberwolves don't need a dividing force in the locker room.

"I know some changes had to be made," said Laettner, in the fourth year of a six-year, $21.6-million contract.

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