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Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Rockets may deal Olajuwon for draft picks

HOUSTON (AP) — Star NBA center Hakeem Olajuwon would be traded by the Houston Rockets to the Toronto Raptors for two players and two first-round draft picks, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The newspaper in today's editions quoted sources close to the talks as saying that the discussions have been going on for about two weeks. But the sources said talks had not been completed as of late Monday.

Sources told the newspaper that negotiations became more intense Sunday and Monday and could lead to some changes in the office, potentially including another draft pick or player.

Rockets officials refused to comment about the trade negotiations.

"The main thing is there will be fewer free agents in the future under the new collective bargaining agreement," a source close to the trade talks said on condition of anonymity. "You can already see more players signed with their teams because they get more money with their current teams. Free agency as we once knew it has been curtailed."

Olajuwon, the Rockets' most successful and celebrated player in a 15-year career that followed three seasons at the University of Houston, led the NBA team to championships in 1994 and '95.

Trades cannot be made until Aug. 1, so the Raptors would have to select players on the Rockets' behalf during the NBA draft on Wednesday.

The Rockets would acquire the Raptors' two first-round selections, the fifth pick —acquired from Denver — and the 12th pick (Toronto's own). The Raptors also would send former Rockets center/forward Kevin Willis and guard/forward Doug Christie to Houston.

Both players are under contract for one more season. Because Toronto would be under the salary cap, it would be able to take on Olajuwon's $14.3 million salary without precisely matching the salaries of the players dealt.

Willis played two seasons with the Rockets before he was traded to Toronto last June for Roy Rogers and two first-round draft picks (with which the Rockets drafted guard Bryce Drew and forward Mirsad Turkcan). Willis, 36, averaged 12 points and 8.3 rebounds in 1999.

Christie, 29, played 3« seasons for the Lakers and Knicks before he seemed to blossom in his three full seasons in Toronto. He averaged 15.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 1998 and a career-best 16.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 1997-98.

The Rockets have been looking for position in the NBA draft. The No. 5 pick would be the team's highest draft position since they selected Olajuwon with the No. 1 pick in 1984.

But by dealing Olajuwon, 36, the Rockets would begin a rebuilding process in the wake of a disappointing first-round playoff loss to the Lakers, the team's second consecutive ouster in the first round.

The deal also could affect forward


Keith Hedson signaled to the judges he was finished tying his steer this morning in 12.3 seconds, as the second go-round of steer roping began at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena. Hedson's time tied Bucky Hefner for the best time so far in slack competition, which got underway at 7:30 a.m. with the first go round.

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Pecos Enterprise
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