NEW YORK — The New York Knicks were all set to trade Patrick Ewing for Glen Rice and Vin Baker as part of a four-team megadeal. For most of Monday, people thought the blockbuster was imminent.
Now, the trade looks dead.
In what would have been the largest trade in NBA history, the Knicks, Lakers, SuperSonics and Pistons discussed sending Ewing to Seattle, Rice and Baker to New York and Christian Laettner and Chris Dudley to Los Angeles. The Pistons would have received several lesser caliber players, draft picks and cash.
ESPN.com had reported the deal had been agreed to, but it reportedly collapsed when the Pistons backed out. The New York Times reported in Tuesday's editions that the Pistons called it off because they didn't want to take on some of the players' contracts.
But the New York Post also reported that the Pistons might have held up the deal because they are mulling a separate offer for Laettner from Dallas.
However, the Daily News quoted an unidentified Knicks source as saying the snag was "not very significant" and that the blockbuster deal might still happen.
Whether the deal is dead or not, it has become clear that the Knicks are set to part ways with Ewing, a 15-year stalwart for the franchise who never delivered the championship he was expected to bring.
A trade could be revived if the Lakers, Knicks and SuperSonics can find a new fourth team to broker it.
But for now, Ewing remains a Knick, Rice remains in limbo and the NBA awaits the next big move in a summer of player movement that has already included Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady going to Orlando, as well as Utah, Dallas, Golden State and Boston completing the first four-team trade in league history.
The fortunes of several big stars were at stake in this latest deal. The centerpieces would have been Ewing, whose age and style of play haven't always meshed with his newer, younger teammates; Rice, a free agent who was displeased last season by his role with the world champion Lakers; and Baker, an Olympian and former All-Star whose game has deteriorated the past two seasons while his weight ballooned.
Had the trade gone through, the Sonics were then set to sign free agent Los Angeles Clippers forward Maurice Taylor for the midlevel salary cap exception of $2.5 million. It was unclear how the apparent collapse of the four-team trade would affect Taylor's chances of signing in Seattle.
Ewing, 38, is entering the final year of a four-year, $60 million contract but wants to play two more years after the upcoming season. His production has slumped the past two seasons as he has battled injuries while also moving into a diminished role with New York.
Recently, Ewing gave the Knicks a list of eight teams to which he would accept a trade. He is one of just a handful of NBA players with no-trade clauses in their contracts.
"I'm a little bit surprised, but we knew this day might come," said John Starks, a former teammate of Ewing's who remains his close friend. "It would be the end of a great era in this city's history. It's tough to see him leave New York, and it's going to be tougher for him."
Rice, who has been one of the league's best shooters, remains the most high-profile unsigned free agent. A three-time All-Star who averaged at least 21.1 points for five straight seasons beginning in 1993-94, he was never comfortable with the Lakers being the third option on offense behind Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The Knicks have had a run of failures this summer in acquiring any of the best players — Grant Hill, Brian Grant, Danny Fortson, and now Baker and Rice — that they had set their sights on.
Among the other players that reportedly would have moved in the four-team Knicks-Pistons-Lakers-Sonics trade were Travis Knight from the Lakers to the Knicks, David Wingate from New York to the Pistons, Vernon Maxwell, Vladimir Stepania, Lazaro Borrell and Greg Foster from the Sonics to the Pistons and Tyronn Lue and John Celestand from the Lakers to Detroit. The Pistons also would have received draft picks and cash.