In what will go down in NBA history as the Summer of Schayes, we find this twist: Kurt Rambis, once a third-round draft choice who started his pro career in Greece, signs with Charlotte as an unrestricted free agent for $600,000 a year. Danny Vranes, who was the No. 5 overall choice and signed two nice contracts with Seattle, may end up playing in Greece.
No doubt, Vranes' NBA value dropped considerably while he was hidden for two seasons on Philadelphia's bench. As Philly's former player representative, he can delight in the contracts being awarded to free agents this summer under the new system - the only trouble is, nobody knocking down Vranes' door with offers like those for Danny Schayes, Tom Chambers, Tree Rollins or even Rambis."I know if I stayed around and waited, I'd be in the NBA somewhere," says Vranes. "How much money, I don't know."
A call from Kresimir Cosic gave him another choice. Cosic, the BYU legend, was hired to coach a team in Athens, Greece, and is recruiting Vranes as his only American. Vranes returned this week from a visit to Athens and has until Aug. 21 to decide. In the meantime, he's giving NBA teams a last chance.
Vranes wants to stay in the league, but he's also intrigued about playing before crowds of 80,000 in Greece, not to mention a salary of about $250,000 with bonus money up front. "I'm excited about it," he said.
Until Chambers signed with Phoenix, Vranes was higher on the Jazz's list. The Jazz pictured the former Ute/Seattle teammates as an offense-defense forward package. "When Tom became unavailable, that changed our thinking," said Jazz president-GM David Checketts. "(Vranes) is still not out of the running."
But the Jazz's interest in Vranes may hinge on whether they can sign 1987 first-round draft choice Jose Ortiz, and the latest indications are favorable.
SAME STORY: The Jazz's feud with ProServ continues. In the latest episode, Checketts backed off pursuing free-agent point guard Rory Sparrow of Chicago after becoming frustrated in dealing with ProServ vice-president David Falk regarding Marc Iavaroni and Mel Turpin.
The Jazz picked up Iavaroni's option year, but failed to sign him to a contract extension. ProServ decided not to make Turpin a free agent, so he could keep deferred money.
Adrian Dantley matters originally spoiled the Jazz-Falk relationship, and Checketts said in January 1987, ". . . unless we desperately want a player, we will avoid a player represented by David Falk."
That was a strong statement, because Falk and ProServ handle elite players. The Jazz traded for Turpin, who is not directly represented by Falk, and were interested in Sparrow as a backup for John Stockton - but cancelled Sparrow's visit. "We were prepared to go out there in hopes of a striking a deal," said Falk.
"It's this ongoing battle we have . . . all the rules of dealing just fly out the window," said Checketts. "Sparrow's the loser."
The Jazz lose a shot at an eight-year veteran who may have fit perfectly, although Checketts said, "How much would he be worth to us? If he was that good, I guess every team in the league would be after him."
That means the Jazz will try to find a backup point guard from among draft choices Jeff Moe of Iowa and Ricky Grace of Oklahoma, plus 1987 third-rounder Billy Donovan, when rookie-free agent camp starts Friday at Westminster College.
ADD FALK: Ironically, Falk hoped things would be different. "We need to bury the hatchet," he said. "I've decided to take the initiative to put that behind us."
When informed of the Jazz's stance on Sparrow this week, Falk said, "If the reason they have withdrawn their interest in Rory is because of Turpin, I think that's unfortunate, but I can't control that."
CASHING IN: Jazz player rep Mark Eaton likes the way free agency is working this summer. "The players are definitely seeing the benefits of it," he says.
Is Eaton looking forward to his own free agency? "Two years is a long time," he noted. "In baseball, they went crazy for a while and everybody kind of got tired of it and backed off."
A close friend of Schayes, the former Jazzman, Eaton says of Schayes' six-year, $9 million deal with Denver, "It's a little unbelievable."
Says Jazz owner Larry Miller, "It concerns me a lot when I see things like Danny Schayes' deal."
Iavaroni is now scheduled to be the Jazz's first-ever unrestricted free agent, next summer. Falk is counting on the free-agent money continuing to flow.
QUOTABLE: Falk, on Layden: "I still regard Frank as someone I like and respect, despite some of the public comments. I don't feel inhibited by the past dealings, and I hope Frank wouldn't feel differently. This isn't a popularity contest, it's a question of doing a professional job."