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Heat’s Off: Manning Is Still Clipper : Pro basketball: Agent says a trade that would have brought Rice and Burton from Miami was vetoed at the last minute by Sterling.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling Friday vetoed a trade that would have sent disgruntled All-Star forward Danny Manning to the Miami Heat for guard Glen Rice and swingman Willie Burton, Manning’s agent said.

The deal collapsed just before Manning was to fly to Miami.

“Danny is comatose,” said Ron Grinker, Manning’s agent. “His bags were packed.”

Manning, who said goodby to his teammates after a trade agreement had apparently been reached, was scheduled to leave John Wayne Airport late Friday morning for Miami, where he would have been introduced during a Miami Heat exhibition game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.

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“Danny Manning was scheduled to be on a flight at 11:05,” Grinker said. “There was a conference call scheduled at 4 p.m. (EDT). (Clipper General Manager) Elgin Baylor assured everybody he had authority to make a deal.”

But Sterling rescinded the deal Friday during practice and Manning, who had a confirmed first-class reservation, according to a computer check of airline records, didn’t show.

Sterling wouldn’t comment.

Don Cronson, Burton’s agent, confirmed that the deal fell through at the last minute.

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“I know the Heat wanted to (make the trade),” Cronson said. “They were close, they were talking and very possibly the deal was consummated but for Sterling’s final approval.”

Grinker said the deal is unlikely to be revived and Manning, who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, will probably remain with the Clippers for the entire season. Manning, who averaged a team-high 22.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 79 games last season, is scheduled to earn $3.25 million this season.

“There won’t be any more discussions with anyone else,” Grinker said. “This was the last opportunity that the Clippers had to get something in return for Danny. I don’t want to put him through this again. I don’t want to give him any hope that it’s going to happen again.”

The bizarre scenario unfolded during training camp at UC Irvine. Manning was held out of practice. Clipper officials claimed that he had tendinitis in his left knee.

“That’s what you say when you’re being traded, so you don’t get hurt,” Grinker said.

As Manning iced his knee on the bench, the Clipper management team, armed with cellular phones on the other side of the court, broke the news to Heat officials.

Manning then met with Sterling, Baylor, Coach Bob Weiss and Clipper publicist Joe Safety.

“Donald Sterling called (Manning) in and told him that he wanted to stay there, he knew he wanted to stay there and he loved it there and I’m the bad guy,” Grinker said. “It’s a sad commentary.

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“Donald T. Sterling honestly and tragically believes he can sign Danny Manning. He thinks he has enough money. No matter how much he has, he doesn’t have enough.”

Manning, who appeared shocked, left the gym with Safety, who said that he was driving Manning back to the team hotel for treatment on his alleged knee injury and that Manning didn’t have time to talk.

“Nothing has happened, so I have nothing to say,” Manning said as he got into the car. “I’m still here.”

Weiss said the Clipper “executive committee” decided to retain Manning.

“There was a potential deal in the works and when it really got down to it, we said, ‘Nobody in this gym wants you to leave,’ ” Weiss said. “It is our feeling we have a chance to make this thing work and with that in mind, we decided we want to keep Danny here.

“We have the perception that it is not written in stone that he is leaving. We all think enough of Danny to take the chance on making things work.

“I’m not putting words in Danny’s mouth, but our perception on talking with Danny is that we think it is possible to create an environment by which he will want to remain.”

Manning practiced Friday night, but refused comment.

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This was the second time in the last five months that the Clippers have come close to trading Manning, who rejected a $25-million, five-year deal with Clippers last summer.

The Clippers nearly traded Manning to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill on draft day in June, but the deal fell through and Gill was later traded to Seattle.

In a desperate attempt to sign Manning, the Clippers invited Grinker to their Newport Beach hotel for a meeting the night before training camp opened last Friday.

However, Grinker told Sterling that he had “zero chance” to sign Manning.

Coincidentally, Harley Frankel, a key Clipper executive who assisted Baylor in making trades, negotiating contracts and was exploring options for a new arena, announced his resignation Friday. But he said his departure didn’t involve Manning and that he wasn’t negotiating Manning’s contract.

“It had nothing to do with Manning,” Frankel said. “This has been a good challenge and we’ve been successful during these two years and I’m looking to do new things. It’s coincidental. This was actually done a few days ago and I just thought the best time to put it out was at the end of the week.

“Basically I’ve really enjoyed the two years I’ve been with the Clippers. I’m especially pleased that these were the first two years the Clippers ever made the playoffs. The reason I’m resigning is that I want to pursue some other opportunities either in the public or private sector.”

Clipper Notes

The Clippers open their exhibition season against the Golden State Warriors tonight at 7:30 at Anaheim Arena. The Warriors will be without Chris Webber, the first player taken in the draft, and All-Star guard Chris Mullin. Webber, who underwent an emergency appendectomy last week, is unsigned, and Mullin, whose mother died this week, isn’t expected to report to camp until next week. . . . Clipper forward Tom Tolbert, who has missed most of training camp because of a back injury, is scheduled to see a back specialist and probably won’t play tonight or Sunday against Milwaukee at 6 p.m. at the Sports Arena. . . . Center Stanley Roberts was held out of practice Friday morning because of a blister on his left foot, but he says he will probably play tonight.


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