Salary cap also puts lid on deadline-beating deals NBA notebook

February 26, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

Arguments pro and con on the National Basketball Association's salary cap apparently depend on which side of the bottom line your team is standing.

That the majority of the teams were at the cap or over was the reason given for the almost total absence of trades in the final days before the league deadline Thursday.

The only meaningful deal saw the Los Angeles Clippers send center Benoit Benjamin to the Seattle SuperSonics for Olden Polynice and first-round draft picks in 1991 and 1993.

No team was more active in pre-deadline talks than the New York Knicks. With his job in jeopardy, general manager Al Bianchi was desperate to change the face of the under-achieving Knicks.

He particularly sought to trade malcontent point guard Mark Jackson, but few teams were able or willing to absorb Jackson's $1.785 million contract. The last deal to fall through had Jackson ticketed for the Golden State Warriors for guards Sarunas Marciulionis and Kevin Pritchard.

Now the Knicks are stuck with Jackson and a potential divisive force in the dressing room.

"The way the cap presently works," said Bianchi, "you end up trading salaries more than players, and it makes it very hard to finalize a deal.

"I think up to now the salary cap has been basically good in balancing the power in the league. But over the past year, things got out of hand and it's restricted trades. I think the owners have to find a way to modify the cap to allow greater player movement."

Bullets general manager John Nash could not disagree more. He says the salary cap is perfect just the way it is since Washington is one of the few teams under the current $11.875 million cap, with some $2 million free to spend in the off-season on an attractive free agent.

"If they change the cap, it's almost certain that teams in the biggest markets like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago will eventually dominate," Nash said. "Teams stupid enough to go over the cap don't deserve a break. It's up to management to practice prudent financial judgment."

... Jax or Joker? This was not the first time Jackson, who was fined $43,000 last week for "insubordination" after a run-in with Knicks coach John McLeod, has run afoul of management. A team source said that Jackson also was fined previously by former Knicks coach Stu Jackson.

... Big Ben: Benjamin has welcomed his shift from the downtrodden Clippers to the fast-rising Sonics. "It's a good career move for me because Seattle has a chance to make the playoffs," he said after last week's trade for Polynice.

"The Clippers had to move me because they didn't know if I would sign with them again next season. They treated me badly during contract negotiations, and the scars haven't healed. I feel I haven't reached my potential and the Clippers obviously feel the same way."

But the Sonics will still have to satisfy Benjamin, who becomes a free agent next season. It won't be any easy task since the 7-foot center is represented by Don King.

... Second chance: Milwaukee coach Del Harris has turned a deaf ear to all the negative publicity surrounding recently acquired guard Dale Ellis, obtained from Seattle for sixth man Ricky Pierce. Harris said it was his deal. "If everyone in Milwaukee lets Dale start with a clean slate, they will find he is a fine young man and tremendous basketball player," Harris said. "Who's to say he is not the equal of a Ricky Pierce?"

Said Ellis, who overcame serious drinking problems: "The things that happened were minor to me. You make mistakes in life. But I don't let them affect me on the court."

Tunnel vision: Phoenix Suns point guard Kevin Johnson and forward Tom Chambers, a fellow All-Star, recently had a heated jaw-to-jaw discussion during a road game in Houston. Chambers wanted to know why Johnson could not find him on the court. It took a four-hour meeting the next week to settle their dispute.

Said Johnson: "We needed to look within ourselves and eradicate our problems as a team. As far as Tom and me, there's no feud. It was just a communication thing."

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