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Ferry Is Traded; Benjamin on Board : Deal: The Clippers give up Reggie Williams and rights to former Duke star for Cavaliers’ Harper and three draft picks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A major trade that was proposed in May and has been fine-tuned ever since finally occurred Thursday when the Clippers sent Reggie Williams and the rights to Danny Ferry to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ron Harper and three draft choices, including a pair of No. 1s.

With one move, the Clippers solved a major problem by finding a dependable shooting guard and rid themselves of what was, at the least, a minor headache. Getting Ferry back from Italy is now the Cavaliers’ problem.

This is a deal that came close to happening toward the end of training camp, although on a smaller scale. That would have been Harper and a No. 1 pick for Ferry, but Cleveland pulled back at decision time because it didn’t want to start the season in complete shambles, with Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance out with injuries and Mike Sanders lost to free agency.

In the end, the Clippers got the player they have wanted for months--an outside shooter with experience--and the Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick in 1990, No. 2 in ’91 and No. 1 in ’92.

Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor and Wayne Embry, his Cleveland counterpart, spoke several times Tuesday and Wednesday before reaching an agreement late Wednesday night. The final points were worked out and the papers were signed Thursday.

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“We’ve been persistent in talking to them,” Baylor said in Los Angeles. “We’ve been patient and kept the lines of communication open. The talks went dormant a few times, but it worked out in the end.

“We got a quality veteran player. (Harper) certainly has all-star quality, he has playoff experience, and he has been with a winning program that he was a big part of. That’s a lot of positives.

“Reggie was OK. As I told him, it’s an opportunity for him to go to Cleveland and, with Harper here, he could start. Reggie has had a tough career, with playing out of position as a rookie and then getting hurt, but he has a good future.”

Williams, who started each of the first five Clipper games this season, was 30 minutes away from leaving the hotel with the Clippers for Thursday night’s game with the Houston Rockets when he got the news. An always promising player who hasn’t lived up to his potential, he left for Cleveland hours later, bound for a new beginning.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “It’s a new opportunity. The last couple years, I’ve been frustrated and tense trying to make things work. I finally felt they wouldn’t work out and wanted a new start.”

The player who never handled the pressure of the high expectations believes he can get that new start in Cleveland.

“They’re a veteran team and they’re used to winning,” Williams said. “I won’t have to be the focal point. It’s not, ‘If Reggie doesn’t do it tonight we’re not going to win.’ They have other focal points already--Nance and Daugherty and (Mark) Price.”

Harper, a fourth-year pro from Miami of Ohio who averaged 19.4 points a game coming into the season and was averaging 22 points, seven assists and 6.9 rebounds in seven games, is expected to join the Clippers Saturday in Los Angeles.

Tom Garrick will move from the point to start at shooting guard for the Clippers tonight in Dallas, as he did against the Rockets. With Carlton McKinney, who went into the Houston game shooting 25.9%, and rookie Jeff Martin, who has played all of seven minutes, as backups, Harper could move into the starting lineup Wednesday night against the New Jersey Nets at the Sports Arena.

“It affords us the expectation of backcourt help, which has been an issue,” Clipper Coach Don Casey said. “I think Reggie will flourish a little more there without the pressure of being a No. 4 pick. He can have a real future there. When a player is traded, he might have a feeling or a sense of not being wanted, and that’s not the case. It’s a case of we’re trying to add some experience and we got it. That’s the biggest need we have.”

Williams shot 40.4% from the field in his first two seasons and 36.8% in 1989-90.

He was well liked by the other Clippers, and after hearing of the trade, his teammates filed into his room to offer best wishes. Later, their reaction was mixed.

“I’m shocked,” said Gary Grant, who started opposite Williams in the backcourt. “But I think this helps both clubs. Whatever Cleveland is looking for from Reggie, I know Reggie will be able to give them. Ron Harper can be an all-star, so that will help us.”

Said forward Charles Smith: “We’re definitely disappointed about it. I kind of feel for Reggie, because he finally adjusted to the NBA style of play and was becoming a big part of the team. Everyone talked about how Reggie was more vocal this year. It was like, just when he got into it, this happened.”

Reaction from the Ferry family wasn’t quite so pronounced.

“I think he was a little bit surprised,” said Bob Ferry, Danny’s father and general manager of the Washington Bullets, who also tried to acquire the rights to the two-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. “Other than that, he didn’t have much more of a reaction. He’s still concentrating on playing where he is.

“Nothing really has changed. Danny is committed to playing in Italy the rest of this season, and his mind is on that.”

Indeed, Ferry, who bolted to Italy before the Clippers had a chance to begin contract negotiations, is locked in for the rest of the season, while making about $2 million. From there, he holds the options on an unusual roll-over contract.

But that’s next season for the Cavaliers. Now, they’re 3-4 and will get a shooting guard to take Harper’s place. But the biggest attraction to a trade in which Cleveland gave up a proven player and a big part of its future for a player who has yet to sign will remain in the distance.

They don’t seem to mind.

As Embry said: “Boston waited a year for Larry Bird. San Antonio waited two years for David Robinson. You will see Danny Ferry will be well worth the wait.”

The future is what this deal’s all about.


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