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KINGS KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING

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The plot that led to the Sacramento Kings' windfall in the NBA draft was hatched shortly after the struggling team lured coach Dick Motta out of retirement last season.

"Believe it or not, we actually had (a strategy)," Kings general manager Jerry Reynolds said Friday. "A lot of people don't believe that."The Kings were determined to find a way to get a lot of players for a few, and as the result of a flurry of pre-draft moves, they wound up acquiring six players while giving up only two - Rodney McCray and Pervis Ellison, the first player chosen in last year's draft.

Among the players acquired were two Philadelphia products - La Salle all-American Lionel Simmons and Temple center Duane Causwell. At the core of the Kings' plan was Simmons, the young man Reynolds and Motta believe can be the cornerstone of a talented team.

"Simmons was the key to our draft," Reynolds said. "We made our minds up with the McCray trade. We feel like (Simmons) can be a starter right away."

Not only do the Kings expect Simmons to start in McCray's old spot at small forward - they made all their daring moves based on that assumption - they expect him to be a marquee player.

"He can come be a star here if he wants to," Reynolds said. "He certainly has our permission."

The Kings wound up with four first-round picks in Wednesday's draft, which was nervy on their part, considering that they haven't fared well in the draft. Of their six first-round picks from 1984 through 1989, only one - former Villanova star Harold Pressley - is still on their roster.

"A couple of months ago," Motta said, "when I walked off the court (at the end of the season), I wasn't very proud, mainly because we didn't compete in a manner that was NBA-standard. I feel absolutely rejuvenated. This is the best draft that I have been involved in. This will prove to be one hell of a draft, and we needed it."

Motta, who prefers developing young players to coaching veterans, and Reynolds devised a plan to use the draft to broaden the Kings' talent base with youth.

Banking on having Simmons to replace McCray, the Kings on Monday initiated a three-way trade that also involved the Utah Jazz and the Washington Bullets.

"We'd been trying to get Eric Leckner from Utah but hadn't had any luck," Reynolds said. "I figured I'd try to get at him through Washington."

Ellison went to the Bullets, and the Kings' second-round pick in Wednesday's draft - the 33rd selection overall - went to Utah. The Jazz sent Bobby Hansen, a guard; Leckner, a forward and center, and their first-round choice (23rd overall) and second-round selection (49th) to Sacramento. Washington gave Utah guard Jeff Malone and a 1991 second-round choice.

"The three-way deal came together pretty much on Saturday (June 23)," Reynolds said. "The hard one was Dallas. We'd been working with Dallas for a couple of months."

The Kings had offered the Mavericks deals involving a variety of players, and things finally clicked a day before the draft. McCray and the Kings' second-round picks in 1990 and 1991 went to the Mavs for center Bill Wennington and the 14th and 18th choices in Wednesday's draft.

Along with Simmons, who was the seventh player taken, the Kings drafted guard Travis Mays of Texas (14th), Causwell (18th) and forward Anthony Bonner of St. Louis (23rd). That was in the first round. In the second round, the Kings picked Bimbo Coles, then traded the former Virginia Tech guard to the Miami Heat for guard Rory Sparrow.

Reynolds now feels he has a team tailor-made for Motta.

"Dick's good with young people," Reynolds said. "Obviously, we're not concerned about having so many young players."

Simmons and Mays figure to see lots of playing time, and Bonner, who can play both small forward and power forward, also should see significant action. Causwell is viewed as a project, but Reynolds believes that after a year, he will be ready for quality playing time. In the meantime, Reynolds foresees him getting spot duty.

"He can block shots," said Rick Benner, the Kings' executive vice president. "You can always use that."

Simmons will be asked to carry much of the scoring load, which last season was borne primarily by Wayman Tisdale (22.3 points a game) and Danny Ainge (17.9).

What Reynolds likes about Simmons, however, goes beyond his ability to put the ball in the hoop. Simmons knows that he'll be counted on for his versatility and his leadership qualities as much as for his shooting.

"I think the number-one thing they want me to do is score points," Simmons said. "But I'll want to do some other things for them, like passing and getting rebounds."