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ALL-STAR LEVER EXPECTED TRADE, BUT NOT TO DALLAS MAVERICKS

Veteran All-Star guard Fat Lever said Friday that he had expected the Denver Nuggets to trade him, but not to the Dallas Mavericks.

"That was the biggest surprise, not the trade in itself," Lever said in a conference call from Hawaii, where he was attending a meeting of NBA player representatives."I had heard of interest by New York, Seattle, Phoenix and Indiana, but not Dallas," Lever said. "The only time Dallas came up was last season, before the season began."

Lever, 6-3 and 175 pounds, led the Nuggets last season in scoring (18.3), rebounding (9.3), steals (2.12) and assists (6.5) while making the All-Star team for the second time.

He learned of the trade after he arrived at his hotel Thursday in Honolulu and checked his messages, he said.

To get Lever, the Mavericks gave up the No. 9 pick in the first round of next week's NBA draft and a 1991 first-round pick they acquired last year from Detroit in the deal that brought them Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre.

Friday, the Nuggets took the No. 9 pick they got from Dallas on Thursday and packaged it with their own No. 15 pick in the first round in a trade with the Miami Heat for the third selection overall.

"This is an exciting deal for us," Denver head coach Doug Moe said. "Sure, we'll miss Fat. He is a tremendous player. But we need to be aggressive in improving our team for the long run. With the No. 3 pick, we should get a player who can really help us."

With three first-round picks, the Mavericks were active in trade talks, particularly with Denver and Sacramento, in search of one or more veteran players that would put them in contention for the NBA's Western Conference championship.

"Dallas has always been a team that's been very competitive, ever since they first got in the league," Lever said. "With the talent Dallas already has, whenever you add a player, whether it's me or someone else, the potential goes higher. I hope to add something."

Lever said Mavericks coach Richie Adubato told him he would be coming off the bench, at least initially.

"He said they want to go with their starters that have been there, and I think that's what you have to do. You fit yourself in, and the other guys will work around you," Lever said.

"I'll have to adjust my game to it, but I don't think you ever mind it as long as you are winning and contributing. That will be an adjustment I'll have to make. The problem comes when you are struggling and not being as effective as you want to be, but winning takes care of all of that."

Lever said he was familiar with Dallas' style of play.

"I've seen Dallas play enough that I know what they want to do," he said. "They are going to run at every opportunity, and that's the same as Denver. There's quite a difference in the patient way they set up their offense."

Lever thinks the trade gives Dallas as much depth at guard as anybody in the NBA. He compared the situation to that of the World Champion Detroit Pistons.

Asked if he was surprised that Dallas was able to get Denver's best player for two draft choices, including next year's from Detroit that figures to be very late in the first round, Lever said he certainly was. But the Nuggets were under pressure from their fans to make a move, he said.

Lever had been with the Nuggets since 1984. He came to Denver as part of a deal that sent Kiki Vandeweghe to Portland in exchange for Lever, Calvin Natt and Wayne Cooper.