NBA's salary cap stops teams from making deals

February 23, 1991

NEW YORK -- The National Basketball Association's trading deadline came and went and . . . .

Tony Campbell is still a Timberwolf, Orlando Woolridge is still a Nugget, Chuck Person is still a Pacer.

The New York Knicks still have the entire collection of guys whom they were offering at a what they considered bargain prices to the other 27 teams. Except, for two games, Mark Jackson, who was suspended yesterday for "conduct detrimental to the team" -- presumably complaining about lack of playing time.

Why no trades?

"Salary cap restrictions stopped deals that otherwise would have been made," said Bob Stein, president of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were shopping Campbell, their leading scorer with a 20.2 average.

The most talked-about deal would have sent him to the Knicks for some combination of Jackson, Gerald Wilkins and Kenny Walker. But the sinking Knicks were unable to fit Campbell into a salary cap of which Patrick Ewing's $4 million salary takes up about a third, and the deal was never made.

"The only thing that I can do is just go out there and do my job and just hope that they look at things realistically and make a good decision," said Woolridge after his agent, Eric Fleisher, met with general manager Bernie Bickerstaff in an effort to upgrade his contract from $820,000, sixth on the team.

Woolridge, the Nuggets' leading scorer, had been rumored as going to San Antonio for Sidney Green and draft choices, or to Orlando for Terry Catledge and to New York for Wilkins.

The most active team in the week before the trading deadline was Seattle.

The SuperSonics acquired center Benoit Benjamin from the Los Angeles Clippers for Olden Polynice and two No. 1 draft choices, and got Ricky Pierce from Milwaukee for the talented but troubled Dale Ellis.

Pierce, who was unhappy with his contract in Milwaukee, scored just four points in his first game with the SuperSonics but has 44 in his last two, including 26 against the Knicks on Thursday night.

Moreover, while the contracts of Benjamin and Pierce contract are up at the end of this season, the Sonics can sign them without worrying about salary cap restrictions since a team's own free agents don't fit into the limit.

"If the numbers are right, I will sign with Seattle," the 7-foot Benjamin said after the deal. "I know I can be an unrestricted free agent."

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