When Bernie Bickerstaff completed a four-player trade with the Indiana Pacers early Wednesday afternoon, he was just getting warmed up.
Within hours of sending Jalen Rose and Reggie Williams to the Pacers, the Denver Nuggets dealt controversial guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Sarunas Marciulionis and a second-round draft pick.
“Obviously it’s got to be done on the floor, but I think we’ve got people who are about winning,” said Bickerstaff, Denver’s coach and president of basketball operations. “Winning is what’s important. Most of these guys have had good playoff experience with good basketball teams.”
Denver’s playoff experience since Abdul-Rauf arrived as the No. 3 overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft has been limited to two appearances as the Western Conference’s eighth-seeded team.
Abdul-Rauf also sparked a national controversy last year when he was suspended indefinitely after refusing to stand for the national anthem. He sat out one game--and forfeited $31,707 of his salary--before agreeing to comply with NBA requirements to stand for the anthem.
Bickerstaff said Abdul-Rauf’s suspension and late-season foot injury subconsciously may have played a part in the trade, but was not the reason for shipping him west.
The Abdul-Rauf trade came after the Nuggets acquired veteran point guard Mark Jackson from the Pacers along with swingman Ricky Pierce. The teams also swapped first-round picks in the draft, with Indiana moving to No. 10 and Denver dropping to No. 23.
“You look at the teams in the playoffs and they’re all veteran basketball teams,” Bickerstaff said. “I don’t think you can do it with just youth anymore.”
In drafting Rose No. 13 overall in 1994, Bickerstaff had hoped the former Michigan star would blossom into a Magic Johnson prototype with his size (6 feet 8) and passing skills.
“I really don’t think it has anything to do with Jalen,” Bickerstaff said. “I think it has to do with someone who was proven.”
The Kings were happy.
“Abdul-Rauf is one of the most explosive scorers in the NBA,” Sacramento General Manager Geoff Petrie said. “He will team with Mitch Richmond to give us two of the best outside shooters in the game.”