Bill Wennington and Uwe Blab almost cost Eric Leckner a nice contract, but Ricky Berry saved him.
When talks started last month withattorney Bob Woolf, the Jazz were offering a deal like those of Wennington and Blab, the Dallas centers who were drafted late in the first round in 1985 and made $240,000 and $260,000 last season. Because of Berry, Leckner will make more than that as a rookie.
Woolf's deal for Berry with Sacramento was for $1 million over three years, and gave him leverage with the Jazz regarding Leckner, drafted just ahead of Berry at No. 17. "He did the smart thing," acknowledged Jazz president-general manager David Checketts, vacationing in Sun Valley, Idaho. "We were just in a box and we had to respond."
Said Woolf from his Boston office, "I set the pace, actually, and centers historically get more money than guards, and that's what happened."
Leckner's three-year deal is for slightly more than $1 million, but unlike Berry's, not all of the contract is guaranteed.
In any case, Leckner joined Karl Malone and Thurl Bailey as one of the few Jazz first-rounders to sign in time for rookie-free agent camp. Leckner arrived in town last week, worked out with the Jazz coaches and even played in the opening camp session Friday morning before officially signing. "I really wanted to get started before camp," Leckner said.
"We made it clear to Woolf that he would lose a lot of value to us if he missed rookie camp," said Checketts.
Added owner Larry Miller, "It's nuts for a guy coming in trying to learn the system, not to be here. This is so much better for everybody." Players like John Duren, Danny Schayes, Dell Curry and even John Stockton lost ground by missing previous rookie camps.
*** The Jazz are having to reschedule the visit of 1987 first-rounder Jose Ortiz. He was supposed to come to town next week, but his team is in the finals of the Puerto Rican Superior League. They'll try to bring Ortiz in before the Puerto Rican Olympic team starts practicing in late August . . . Bailey was scheduled to play in four exhibition games against the U.S. Olympic team, but pulled a quadricep muscle in his left leg this week while sprinting and will miss a month of full-scale workouts, trainer Don Sparks said. Karl Malone is playing two games against the Olympians this weekend in Charlotte, Bobby Hansen will play next Friday in Cleveland and Mark Eaton will play Aug. 24 and 27 in Denver and Las Vegas . . . Best sports connection: Guard Todd Holloway's brother is Mike Tyson's assistant manager . . . Numbers game: Forward Marty Simmons has Kelly Tripucka's No. 4 and Leckner has the Jeff Wilkins/Jeff Cook/Darryl Dawkins No. 45.