The Washington Bullets, who have the sixth pick in the 1992 NBA draft, have been approached about that selection by teams that include the Los Angeles Lakers, who may have offered veteran small forward James Worthy, an All-Star the past seven seasons.
Team president Susan O'Malley confirmed the Lakers proposal yesterday on WTEM, Washington's new all-sports station.
"Obviously nothing has happened or we would have called a press conference," O'Malley said.
But Lakers general manager Jerry West strongly denied that his team has offered Worthy in any prospective deal with the Bullets.
"The report you heard is simply --------," West said. "I have not talked to them about James Worthy, and they have not talked to us. If they're confirming it, I'm going to unconfirm it. I have no idea where these things come from."
Bullets general manager John Nash called the trade idea "an impossibility."
"Right now," said Nash, "we're capped out [at $12.5 million] and would have to trade someone to match Worthy's contract [$3.2 million] until the cap is raised to $14 million following the playoffs."
nTC Left unsaid is that the Bullets have little interest in acquiring Worthy, 31, who played in only 54 games last season. The former North Carolina All-American, who, as a junior, was the first player chosen in the 1983 draft, was leading the Lakers in scoring average (19.9) before undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in March. He missed the final 28 games and the playoffs.
His shooting percentage dipped to a career-low .440 this season. This was an indication of how much his offense had been aided by playmaker Magic Johnson, who retired this season after testing HIV-positive.
In 1987, Worthy came close to being traded to the Dallas #F Mavericks for Mark Aguirre and Roy Tarpley. Lakers boss Jerry Buss had worked out the deal with Dallas owner Donald Carter, but West threatened to quit if the deal were consummated.
Now West and new Lakers coach Randy Pfund apparently view Worthy as expendable, but the Bullets are not biting.
"A number of teams have expressed interest in our lottery pick," said Nash, "but, as yet, we have not engaged in any serious dialogue about a trade. In fact, at this time, I would guess that we will be using the pick ourselves."
This would go against Nash's recent history. In 1988, as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, he swapped draft places (No. 3 for No. 6) with the Los Angeles Clippers, dealing power forward Charles Smith for shooting guard Hersey Hawkins.
Two years ago, on the eve of the draft, he acquired center Pervis Ellison from the Sacramento Kings in a three-team swap in which shooting guard Jeff Malone went from Washington to the Utah Jazz. And last June, on draft day, he used the Bullets' eighth pick to obtain point guard Michael Adams from the Denver Nuggets.
But the 1992 draft is considered the deepest in talent since the 1984 class of Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Bowie, Kevin Willis, John Stockton, Sam Perkins, Otis Thorpe and Alvin Robertson.
The top four selections seem almost guaranteed -- Louisiana State center Shaquille O'Neal to the Orlando Magic, Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning to the Charlotte Hornets, Duke center Christian Laettner to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Ohio State guard Jim Jackson to the Mavericks.
Denver, with the fifth choice, is not tipping its hand. Harold Miner, Southern Cal's exciting shooting guard, is regarded as one of the favorites, but the Nuggets reportedly do not intend to re-sign veteran power forward Greg Anderson and could be interested in Stanford's Adam Keefe, an All-Pac-10 choice the past three years.
Keefe, 6 feet 9 and 230 pounds, auditioned for Nash and Bullets coach Wes Unseld yesterday and apparently left a favorable impression.
But Unseld and his assistants plan to test several other big men. Notre Dame forward LaPhonso Ellis had a tryout Wednesday, and North Carolina State's multi-purpose forward, Tom Gugliotta, expected to be screened this week.
The Bullets have not ruled out choosing a backcourt player, with Miner and Missouri's Anthony Peeler viewed as the most appealing.