Olajuwon speaking with Raptors; Anderson could leave Spurs


Hakeem Olajuwon will not finish his career with the Houston Rockets if the Toronto Raptors can entice him into relocating to Canada. Derek Anderson might not be playing for the San Antonio Spurs next season unless they make him a better offer. On the second day that NBA free agents were allowed to sign, Thursday was marked more by posturing and leveraging than it was by dealmaking. The Raptors, who have already agreed to terms with their three free agents — Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams and Jerome Williams — are trying to coax Olajuwon into playing his 18th professional season in Canada. Olajuwon has spent his first 17 seasons — plus four years of college — in Houston. “I’d have trouble seeing him in another uniform, and that’s why we’re working so hard to keep him here,” Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said. “Money and years are both issues.” The Raptors, who met with Olajuwon earlier this week, are likely offering their US$4.5 million exception to the 2.14-meter (7-foot) center who was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1994. The number of years Toronto is offering was not known. Toronto nailed down an agreement with point guard Alvin Williams. Williams flourished this season under coach Lenny Wilkens, earning a starting a job after Mark Jackson was traded to New York. The Rockets paid Olajuwon more than US$16 million last season, and his salary counts as US$24.5 million against next year’s salary cap until the Rockets renounce his rights or re-sign him. Until the Rockets do one of those two things, they are unable to finalize agreements with three of their other key free agents — Moochie Norris, Maurice Taylor and Shandon Anderson. “Right now, he’s our focus and we’re doing everything we can to keep him,” Dawson said. “We’re trying to make him see that this is the place for him, but it’s up to him.” Olajuwon’s agent, Dan Fegan, did not return several phone calls. Anderson, meanwhile, remained at odds with the Spurs over the financial terms of his next contract. San Antonio is offering US$36 million over five years, but Anderson wants a sixth year guaranteed — along with maximum raises from year to year. “We’re probably going to set a timetable soon,” agent Tony Dutt said, adding that Cleveland, Portland, Dallas and Miami are trying to acquire Anderson through a sign-and-trade deal. Dutt said the chances of Anderson returning as San Antonio’s starting shooting guard are “50-50.” The Spurs also face the possible loss of backup forward Samaki Walker, who has drawn interest from the Los Angeles Lakers. Like many teams, the Lakers are trying to avoid letting their payroll climb above US$54 million. Teams exceeding that threshold will have to pay a dollar for-dollar luxury tax on the overage. A trade sending Charles Oakley from Toronto to Chicago for Brian Skinner also was finalized.

76ers re-sign Mutombo The Philadelphia 76ers have re-signed Congolese center Dikembe Mutombo, the franchise said on Thursday.

The four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, who was traded to the Sixers midseason and helped them to the NBA finals, was signed to a deal the Philadelphia Inquirer said would pay more than US$65 million over four years.

The Sixers wanted to announce the signings of both Mutombo and Aaron McKie on Wednesday, but a snag in talks setting the NBA’s salary cap forced a day’s delay for the Mutombo announcement. McKie signed a seven-year contract worth US$42 million on Wednesday.

“I am glad to be a part of the 76ers and am looking forward to coming back next year,” Mutombo said.

“The reception that I got from the fans, the organization and the people in this city was just tremendous.

“I knew since that day it was time for me to come back here.”

Majerle beats the Heat by returning to Suns Dan Majerle is back with the Phoenix Suns, signing a free agent contract with the National Basketball Assocation club here Thursday after five seasons with the Miami Heat. A 13-year veteran, the 35-year-old Majerle played the first seven years of his career with the Suns, enjoying his best success. During his tenure in Phoenix, the swingman earned three trips to the All-Star Game. In both 1992 and 1993, Majerle led the league in 3-pointers made. He also gained a spot on the NBA All-Defensive second team in 1991 and 1993. In his career, Majerle has averaged 11.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range.

Nets confirm signing MacCulloch to offer sheet

New Jersey Nets president Rod Thorn confirmed on Thursday that restricted free agent center Todd MacCulloch has signed an offer sheet with the team.

The 7-foot (2.13 metres), 25-year-old Canadian averaged less than 10 minutes a game off the bench with the Philadelphia 76ers but the Nets hope to make him their starting center.

Terms were not revealed, but the Newark Star-Ledger reported that MacCulloch signed a six-year, US$33.75 million offer sheet.

The Nets, perennially in need of a center, are not expected to re-sign free agent Evan Eschmeyer, and Jim McIlvaine is coming off an injury-plagued season.

New Jersey acquired veteran center Chris Dudley from the Phoenix Suns and selected Stanford center Jason Collins with one of its three first-round draft picks.

Nuggets sign Spurs’ guard Johnson Avery Johnson, who spent the past seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, signed a three-year contract worth more than US$14 million Thursday with the National Basketball Association club. Johnson, 36, also played for the Nuggets in the 1990-1991 season. “We’re extremely excited to bring Avery back to the Nuggets,” coach Dan Issel said. “He is a consummate professional, a pillar in the community and he will add a tremendous amount of leadership to our locker room.” The Nuggets, dealing without a general manager, have been burned by Issel signings before. Two years ago, Issel signed Cory Alexander to a seven-year deal for US$11 million but released him after a year. And Issel gave US$43 million over seven years to French guard Tariq Abdul-Wahad, who ended the season at the end of the bench.

Wizards sign Laettner to four-year deal Christian Laettner signed a four-year contract worth a reported US$21 million here Thursday to remain with the National Basketball Association’s Washington Wizards. Laettner, a forward, has played nine seasons in the league since being a member of the 1992 United States Olympic gold medal”Dream Team”, the lone collegiate representative on a squad comprised of the game’s greatest legends. “We’re pleased Christian will remain a Wizard,” said Michael Jordan Wizards president of basketball operations, Laettner’s former Olympic teammate and potential future NBA teammate should he decide to end his 2 1/2-year retirement.

“He is a veteran forward, a professional, and his veteran experience will prove invaluable w