PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers have reached tentative contract agreement with free-agent center/forward Charles Shackleford and were scheduled to have a news conference this afternoon.
Shackleford, a 6-foot-10 rebounding specialist, quickly worked his way to the top of a short list of obtainable big men compiled by the Sixers. He reportedly will sign a multi-year contract, with the salary per season believed to be at least $1 million.
The team freed up space beneath the NBA-imposed salary cap by not exercising a contract option on forward Rick Mahorn, who had played two seasons in Philadelphia. Mahorn was pressed into service as an emergency center last season, after the Sixers traded Mike Gminski to try to revive a failing offense with low-post forward Armon Gilliam.
Now faced with the need to find a center, the Sixers are making Shackleford the second half of a two-part plan. The first part of the plan unfolded on draft day, when they selected Alvaro Teheran, a 7-footer who will play at least one season in the Spanish professional league.
Neither Shackleford nor Teheran is a sure thing, but the Sixers are in a position where they must take risks to improve. They have no spare players who could bring something of value in trade, and under league rules, they cannot deal away another first-round draft choice until 1995.
Shackleford has enormous natural talent, but must be considered a risk because he has fundamental holes in his game and a spotty history off the court. Sal DiFazio, his agent, attributes the player's past indiscretions to immaturity.
Now 25, Shackleford is coming off a season of professional play in Italy. He previously spent two seasons as a reserve with the New Jersey Nets before being waived last August.
Shackleford has admitted accepting cash payments from two player agents while enrolled at North Carolina State University. He has said that he later repaid the money. He has denied allegations that he accepted money in a point-shaving scheme while playing for the Wolfpack. While with the Nets, he was arrested for a minor drug violation.
The Sixers claim to have done extensive research into Shackleford's character, and they say he needs only the proper environment to develop into a quality player.
In Italy, Shackleford is reported to have averaged 24 points and 16 rebounds, although statistics from Europe are suspect.
The Sixers bypassed available big men Bill Cartwright and Jack Sikma.