Stoudamire Traded; Walker Resigns
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ In a day of major upheaval for the Toronto Raptors, star guard Damon Stoudamire was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and coach Darrell Walker resigned Thursday.
Stoudamire was dealt away in a six-player trade that brought another headache to the Raptors. Kenny Anderson, acquired from the Blazers along with Gary Trent and rookie Alvin Williams, was adamant that he would not play for Toronto.
Walker, who had coached the Raptors since the start of the 1995-96 season, was replaced on an interim basis by Butch Carter.
``I just thought that if they were going to trade Damon, they were going in a different direction than I wanted to,″ Walker said. ``I don’t mind coaching an expansion team, but I wanted to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t see any light.″
The two major changes came just one day after the Raptors were sold to the company that owns the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. The NBA franchise’s third season also has included the departure of general manager Isiah Thomas in December after a failed bid to purchase the team.
``It’s just crazy,″ said 18-year-old rookie Tracy McGrady, the youngest player in the league. ``I guess this is my introduction to the NBA. I’m glad to get it over with in my rookie year.″
McGrady was one of only eight Raptors in uniform as Toronto played the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.
``We’re going to play a zone and hope NBA officials don’t show up. We’re hoping for college officials,″ Carter joked.
Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers were sent to Portland along with Stoudamire. In addition to Anderson, Trent and Alvin Williams, Toronto will receive two first-round picks _ Portland’s own 1998 pick and New York’s 1998 lottery-protected pick (unless it is a lottery pick).
The Blazers were believed to have agreed to pay a substantial portion _ if not all _ of the remaining five years of Anderson’s contract worth $38 million.
The Trail Blazers beat out the New York Knicks in the final bidding for Stoudamire, who was the subject of numerous proposed deals _ including at least two that fell through in the final stages.
``I looked at it as a win-win situation _ either the Knicks or Portland,″ Stoudamire said at Newark Airport before boarding a flight back to Toronto before joining his new team.
The Knicks were believed to be offering Chris Mills, Chris Childs, a No. 1 draft pick and a substantial amount of money. General manager Ernie Grunfeld apparently never improved his offer even after he was warned that Stoudamire could get away.
``I don’t know how close we were. That’s for them to say,″ Grunfeld said.
Earlier this week, proposed trades of Stoudamire to New Jersey and Orlando fell through. The trade to Orlando would have been a three-way deal in which four-time All-Star Penny Hardaway would have gone to the Nets.
Stoudamire played a part in squashing both trades by making it known to the Nets and Magic that he would not re-sign with them when he becomes a free agent in the summer.
That was the same reason the Raptors were compelled to trade him.
``It was always our desire to keep Damon Stoudamire and to build our team around him,″ Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald said. ``But it became obvious for a number of reasons that opportunity was not going to present itself.″
``It would have been a gamble not to trade him,″ Grunwald said.
Portland, which is Stoudamire’s hometown, apparently was assured that it will have no problem keeping the 5-foot-10 guard. The Blazers, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will be expected to offer a seven-year contract worth an average of $12 million to $15 million per season.
``I’m going to give them every opportunity to re-sign me,′ Stoudamire said.
Anderson has said he would refuse to report to the Raptors if he was traded there, so Toronto might try to swing another deal that would send the veteran point guard to another team.
``Sometimes change is good, but who knows if it will be good in this situation,″ said the Raptors’ Marcus Camby, who acknowledged he was uncertain whether he would be traded before the Feb. 19 deadline.
The 24-year-old Stoudamire, the 1996 rookie of the year, is one of the premier young point guards in the NBA and has been highly sought after since he made it clear he no longer wants to play for the Raptors.
``Damon, quite simply, we think is one of the best point guards in the NBA,″ said Portland president and GM Bob Whitsitt. ``I think the experience he’s had with Toronto the past 2 1/2 years might be similar to five or six years in the NBA, because to have to endure some losing makes you grow up in this league a lot.″
Stoudamire is averaging 19.4 points and 8.1 assists this season.
``I’m glad to be going to a situation where I can win. The Blazers are an up-and-coming young team that will be going to the playoffs every year,″ said Stoudamire, who added that he was relieved all the trade discussions had finally been resolved.
Anderson has struggled this season, averaging 12.6 points and 5.4 assists. His relationship with new coach Mike Dunleavy has been strained at times.
Walt Williams, who is in the first year of a five-year contract worth $20 million, has missed 21 games this season due to a hyperextended left knee. He is averaging 12.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 28 games.
The 6-11 Rogers was the 11th player taken in the 1994 NBA Draft. He played one season with Golden State before being sent to Toronto in a trade. He is in the first year of a five-year, $10 million contract.
The 23-year-old Trent will be a free agent after this season. He has averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds this season. Alvin Williams, a second-round pick of the Blazers (48th overall) in last summer’s draft, has averaged 6.9 points in a backup role this season.
``If you look at the trade statistically, it’s very close,″ Carter said. ``What we need to do now if make these new players feel wanted.″