The Alonzo Mourning sweepstakes have started, eight months ahead of schedule, with the Charlotte Hornets apparently intent on trading their best player before he either breaks the bank or their concentration and the Lakers are among the interested observers.
Having decided it will be almost impossible to reach an agreement on a new contract with the two-time all-star center, the Hornets might trade Mourning before the regular season begins Friday, rather then live with the distraction of uncertainty. Los Angeles--contrary to reports from North Carolina--does not appear a likely destination.
“We have talked with Charlotte,” Executive Vice President Jerry West said Tuesday. “And there doesn’t seem to be anything that can be done. That’s our only comment.”
The teams are believed to have discussed a couple of scenarios: Vlade Divac and two first-round draft picks, or Elden Campbell, George Lynch and a No. 1.
Although the Lakers are not eager to part with Divac, who last season finished seventh in the NBA in blocked shots and 11th in rebounding, while averaging 16 points, the compensation for the Hornets is not the hitch. It’s the compensation for Mourning, set to become a free agent July 1.
Mourning and his agent, David Falk, have already turned down $10 million a season for seven years from Charlotte, the longest a deal can go under the new collective bargaining agreement. They asked for $15 million over seven--$105 million in all--then dropped that to $13 million annually with an escape clause after the fourth season, and were turned down.
The possibility of having to give up players and then pay that same $91 million when they can simply wait until the summer and pursue Shaquille O’Neal, Dikembe Mutombo or Mourning in the free-agent market gives the Lakers pause. Then there’s the risk of trading for Mourning and possibly losing him without compensation if he signs with another team.
The Lakers waived Kurt Rambis, Kareem Townes and Gerard King, though for Rambis that only means returning to his job as a special assistant coach. The only formality that remains before Friday’s opening-night roster is complete is for Eddie Jones, recovering from a ruptured thumb ligament, to be put on the injured list. He is about two to four weeks away from playing.
Anthony Peeler, who replaced Jones as the starting shooting guard, has a strained left shoulder but should be ready to face the Denver Nuggets at the Forum in the opener.