Mario Elie Mulls Fate With Rockets As Barkley Talk Swirls
Jul. 11, 1996
HOUSTON (AP) _ Mario Elie, whose fate with the Houston Rockets might hinge on the team's anticipated trade for Charles Barkley, says the ballyhooed deal wouldn't necessarily mean another championship.
Elie, who played an integral role in the Rockets' two NBA titles, is a free agent this season and could be on his way out if the Barkley trade occurs.
The rumored three-team deal would send Robert Horry and Sam Cassell to the Denver Nuggets. Center Dikembe Mutombo would go from Denver to Phoenix, and the Suns would send Barkley to Houston.
Any such trade could be announced after 5 p.m. EDT today, when a moratorium on player transactions is lifted, barring any further snags in the labor agreement.
Elie's fate comes into play because Houston might not be able to afford him with Barkley on the roster.
The popular Rockets guard told the Houston Chronicle that neither he nor his agent have talked with the team recently regarding his status.
``I want to make a deal here, but if I can't, I'll go somewhere else,'' Elie said. ``I'd say the chances are 50-50 right now of me being here. And they're getting lower by the day.''
The Barkley trade, however popular, might spell trouble for the team's competitive chances, Elie said. Local fans are excited over the possibility of having past and current Dream Team players Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler together.
``Charles is a great player, but you can't win a championship with just three great players,'' he said. ``In Phoenix, Charles always lacked a big man in the middle. Now, he'll have that. But the Rockets are going to have to find a point guard and a small forward, and that's not easy.
``And they would be losing two or three guys who were big parts of the championship teams.''
Elie went a step further by questioning the Rockets' motives.
``This move is nothing about winning a championship,'' he said. ``It's about getting a new arena. That's just my opinion. It all comes down to business.''
The Rockets are now tenants in the city-owned Summit. Team owner Leslie Alexander has said he needs a new arena to improve revenue and remain competitive with other NBA teams.
Team officials have refused to discuss the status of any pending trades or free agents, including Elie.