The Philadelphia 76ers announced Tuesday night that Dino Radja, obtained in a trade Friday with the Boston Celtics, failed his physical and the deal was off.
The 76ers traded forward Clarence Weatherspoon and center-forward Michael Cage to the Celtics for Radja, a 6-foot-10 center-forward, in the first deal between the teams’ new coaches, Boston’s Rick Pitino and Philadelphia’s Larry Brown.
Celtic General Manager Chris Wallace said Tuesday night the team would have no comment on Radja failing the physical.
Even as the deal was made, Brown expressed concern that Radja’s left knee, which was operated on in January, had not healed sufficiently to allow him to play.
Pitino has said whether or not the trade went through wouldn’t affect his plans for tonight’s draft, in which the Celtics have the third and sixth picks. Philadelphia drafts second.
A major reason the Celtics made the deal was to relieve themselves of Radja’s rich contract, which has three years left. Weatherspoon and Cage could become free agents after next season.
Radja reportedly was to make $5.6 million next season under a contract that contains a 15% raise if he were traded by Boston. That would boost his salary by about $840,000.
The 76ers have other problems.
Derrick Coleman, the moody power forward, says he wants out. And two of the three players Brown said he is considering selecting with the second overall pick in the draft said they don’t want to play in Philadelphia, either.
An exasperated Brown said he doesn’t care what the agents for Keith Van Horn and Chauncey Billups, the two players who have said they’d rather not play for the 76ers, think.
“If we like Van Horn or Billups and their agents don’t think they ought to be here, that’s not my problem,” said Brown, hired in May to revive a team that has averaged 59 losses over the last five seasons. “I think it’s very unfortunate.”
Brown listed Billups, of Colorado, Texas Tech’s Tony Battie and Utah’s Van Horn as the three finalists for the honor of being chosen after San Antonio picks center Tim Duncan.
While the 76ers spent last season trying to groom rookie of the year Allen Iverson to play the point, Brown is intrigued by the possibility of having the 6-foot-4 Billups start in a backcourt with Iverson as the shooting guard.
That would move Jerry Stackhouse to small forward, a position for which he may be best suited.
Meanwhile, Brown said Coleman has told him he didn’t think the 76ers could win and that he wanted to be traded.
“Nobody is banging down the doors to get Derrick,” Brown said. “And this is a guy who played 50-something games last year and averaged 18 [points] and 10 [rebounds].”
Phoenix Sun point guard Kevin Johnson, who said at the end of the season he was retiring from basketball, is returning for at least one more season and a reported $7-million salary.
Johnson, 31, said talks with Sun President Jerry Colangelo and prayer helped changed his mind.
“I intended to play 10 years and that would be it. At the end of the season, I still felt that way,” Johnson said in Phoenix. “But Jerry said we had to talk. I dug down deep in my soul for a decision and this is it.”
Johnson helps the team shore up its lineup until the Suns can go after top free agents for the 1998-99 season. But Johnson said he was not merely staying on to help the team through a transition year, he wants to lead the Suns to a championship.
“I want to win,” he said. “I didn’t come back just to play another year.”
Johnson also refused to rule out staying for just one more year.
“I’m never saying final again,” Johnson said when asked if next season will be his last.
Johnson, who sat out the season’s first 11 games after hernia surgery, finished third in the league in assists (9.3), 20th in scoring (20.1) and had the fourth-highest field goal percentage among guards.
Funding for a new $175-million arena for the Indiana Pacers cleared its final bureaucratic hurdle in Indianapolis.
The City-County Council approved a measure to create a special taxing district in Indianapolis that would use tax revenues to partially fund the Indiana Fieldhouse, to be built downtown.
Groundbreaking for the new arena, which could open for the 1999-2000 season, could begin as soon as next month.