Having missed on John Amaechi and Christian Laettner, among others, as their power forward, the Lakers are now targeting Seattle's Horace Grant, sources said Friday.
The latest deal they're working on represents agent David Falk's attempt to salvage the four-team trade that crashed two weeks ago when the Detroit Pistons pulled out at the last moment.
The basics of this version would send New York's Patrick Ewing (Falk client) to Seattle, the Lakers' Glen Rice (Falk client) to the Knicks, and bring Grant here.
Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak, reached in Hawaii where he has been trying to vacation, would not comment.
Whether Grant would be more than a stopgap for the Lakers would remain to be seen. He's 35 and has only one season left under contract. He has a home in Orlando, where he played five seasons, and has talked about going back there.
Hardly in the prime of his career, he has seen his scoring average drop annually for four seasons. In the last two, it was single figures (8.9, 8.1). His rebound average slipped to 7.8 last season.
However, the SuperSonics used him at center, where he was physically overmatched--Grant was 6 feet 10 and 215 pounds when he broke in, although he has bulked up into the 250-pound range--and insiders said he actually played well.
Once bothered by back trouble, he has played all but 12 games in the last three seasons. (Included was the one he sat out last season after Seattle teammate Vern Maxwell hit him with a dumbbell as Horace tried to break up a weight-room fight between Mad Max and Gary Payton.)
The Lakers were looking for bigger and/or younger, but Grant is, at least, a known object. Phil Jackson coached him in Chicago and liked him, although they had their rocky moments. Jerry West tried to sign Grant as a free agent in 1994, when he went from the Bulls to the Magic. Shaquille O'Neal played alongside him for two seasons in Orlando and doted on him.
Falk has been working on finding new teams for Rice and Ewing all summer. It looked as if he'd done it in mid-August, but a Laker-SuperSonic-Knick-Piston trade collapsed, the Pistons backing out while two of the teams were making plans to call news conferences.
Ewing, who was thought to be on his way out in New York, got what was supposed to be a goodbye battering in the local press--as a New York Post headline put it, "GOOD RIDDANCE"--making it even more awkward than it has been for him in Manhattan. So as soon as the deal crashed, the principals began looking for alternatives.
The Lakers, Knicks and SuperSonics are reported to be in general agreement on the principal players in this trade, but still must find a way to make it work under the salary cap rules.
Because Ewing will make $14 million this season--also his last under contract--the Lakers and Knicks would have to take as much back, less 15%, since they're over the cap.
This will be particularly tough for the SuperSonics, who would be getting $14 million worth of Ewing but giving up Grant, who's making $5.9 million.
Other players would have to be thrown in to balance things out. These might include Seattle's Greg Foster and Vincent Stepania, reportedly bound for the Lakers; the Knicks' Chris Dudley, who may come to the Lakers (as he would have in the first deal), and the Lakers' Travis Knight, going to New York.