It was three seasons ago. It only seems longer. The Seattle Sonics were building the team of the 1990s and their foundation was set.

Tom Chambers. Xavier McDaniel. Dale Ellis.A 220-volt, three-pronged offensive threat. Seattle's three musketeers. All the Sonics needed to do was find a point guard and a rebounder, fill in with the requisite role players and they had the makings of champion.

Tom Chambers. Xavier McDaniel. Dale Ellis. The beginning of a championship era.

That era officially ended Friday. It will be remembered as the era of broken promises.

Chambers, "X" and Ellis. It never happened.

Chambers and McDaniel are playing for a team capable of winning the NBA title in Phoenix. And Dale Ellis is on his way to Milwaukee, after his trade to the Bucks for shooting guard Ricky Pierce.

For the Sonics, it is "Back to the Future, Again."

What about this trade?

For Seattle and the Sonics, it is good riddance to Ellis. He is Milwaukee's problem now. Considering his checkered off-court record and the disappearance of his jump shot, it is an incredible deal for Seattle.

"I'm happy for Dale," Michael Cage said from his Atlanta hotel room Friday night. "Now he can start all over again. He can get back to being the old Dale Ellis. Start hitting those three-pointers and playing aggressively again. The trade will be good for Dale, considering things haven't been going too good for him the last couple of years in Seattle."

A month ago, the Sonics probably couldn't have gotten Rickie Lee Jones for Ellis. There was the drunk-driving conviction, the fight with McDaniel and the bad foot. But Ellis has played in 30 games and stayed out of trouble for almost three months. That was good enough for the Bucks.

In Pierce, Seattle is getting the best sixth man in the game, an All-Star. He was sixth man of the year last season and in 1986-87.

Pierce, who will be 32 when next season starts, is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the league. If you had a choice between Pierce or Ellis in February of 1991, you would have to take Pierce.

But Pierce also comes with excess baggage. He has been arguing with the Bucks about money since last summer. He makes $1 million this season and will make $1.1 million next year. But he wants to extend his contract one more season at $2 million.