PORTLAND - It seems the only question about the Portland Trail Blazers' rumored deal to acquire Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith is not whether the trade will actually happen, but just how much the Blazers are willing to give up to get the Dream Teamer.
The Blazers are serious about acquiring Smith, his agent, Charles Tucker, told The Oregonian. Tucker said he has not heard much from the Blazers, but expects to open negotiations with them soon.
"Mike Dunleavy can keep the rest of his hair now," Tucker said in yesterday's editions of The Oregonian.
Teams have been able to negotiate with players since July 1, but no trades or free-agent signings can begin until Sunday.
"Portland has been calling (Atlanta) for Steve, and I've told him that Mike is a good guy to play for," Tucker told The Oregonian. "In fact, Mike is a much better coach with stars than guys who are not stars. Most stars, from Magic Johnson to Glenn Robinson, haven't had any problems with Mike."
The Hawks seem eager to trade the 30-year-old Smith, who will play on the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, as part of a remodeling effort that began after the New York Knicks swept Atlanta in four games in the second round of the playoffs. Included in the makeover was the trade of guard Mookie Blaylock.
The Blazers are rumored to be offering Isaiah Rider and Jim Jackson, and possibly another player, for Smith, who is scheduled to make between $7.3 million and $9 million next season. The combined salaries of Rider (about $5.4 million) and Jackson ($1.925 million) would match Smith's and allow the trade to meet NBA salary-cap rules.
Atlanta also has expressed interest in backup center Kelvin Cato, who grew up in nearby Decatur, Ga., but Cato has said he would like to stay in Portland. Cato's three-year contract is up after next season, and he has not assured the Hawks that he would re-sign with them if traded.
Tucker said he thinks the Blazers might have to throw shooting guard/small forward Walt Williams into the mix somehow.
Another rumor has the Blazers taking part in a blockbuster three-team deal: The Los Angeles Lakers sending shooting guard Glen Rice to Portland, while the Blazers would deal center/power forward Jermaine O'Neal and backup point guard Greg Anthony to Orlando. The Magic then would send guard Anfernee Hardaway to the Lakers.
Still another option presented itself this week when the Sonics' Detlef Schrempf hinted he might want to come to Portland rather than play a seventh season with Seattle.
Smith is under contract for four more years, through the 2002-03 season, but Tucker said he would like a contract extension for his client.
"Steve is willing to play for Portland, but his contract will have to be adjusted in some way," Tucker said. "Every star player who moves has to have some kind of adjustment, whether it be more years or something else, because he has to uproot. We already were planning to talk to Atlanta after this season about a one- or two-year extension or contract adjustment."
Smith has had trouble with his knees, but his agent said that shouldn't affect the player's longevity, if he is not overused.
"Steve is fine," Tucker said. "Look at how well he played for the United States (in this month's Olympic qualifying tournament). He averaged about 42 minutes in the (NBA) playoffs, and that was too much. Something like 32 minutes per game in Portland would be fine with him."
-- George Shinn agreed to sell up to half of the Charlotte Hornets to Atlanta businessman Ray Woolridge, almost three months after similar negotiations ended with Michael Jordan. Terms weren't released, though the Charlotte Observer reported that Woolridge paid about $80 million. Both Shinn and Woolridge will have the option to buy each other out if one decides to sell, the newspaper said.
-- Minnesota Timberwolves Coach Flip Saunders signed a multiyear contract extension that more than doubles his $1.1 million salary of last season. The contract is guaranteed through the 2001-02 season, and Saunders will average about $2.5 million.