In a day of major upheaval for the Toronto Raptors, star guard Damon Stoudamire was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and coach Darrell Walker resigned Thursday.
Stoudamire was dealt away in a six-player trade that brought another headache to the Raptors. Kenny Anderson, acquired from the Blazers along with Gary Trent and rookie Alvin Williams, was adamant that he would not play for Toronto.Walker, who had coached the Raptors since the start of the 1995-96 season, was replaced on an interim basis by Butch Carter.
"I just thought that if they were going to trade Damon, they were going in a different direction than I wanted to," Walker said. "I don't mind coaching an expansion team, but I wanted to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I don't see any light."
The two major changes came just one day after the Raptors were sold to the company that owns the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs. The NBA franchise's third season also has included the departure of general manager Isiah Thomas in December after a failed bid to purchase the team.
"It's just crazy," said 18-year-old rookie Tracy McGrady, the youngest player in the league. "I guess this is my introduction to the NBA. I'm glad to get it over with in my rookie year."
McGrady was one of only eight Raptors in uniform as Toronto played the New Jersey Nets on Friday night.
"We're going to play a zone and hope NBA officials don't show up. We're hoping for college officials," Carter joked.
Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers were sent to Portland along with Stoudamire. In addition to Anderson, Trent and Alvin Williams, Toronto will receive two first-round picks - Portland's own 1998 pick and New York's 1998 lottery-protected pick (unless it is a lottery pick).
The Blazers were believed to have agreed to pay a substantial portion - if not all - of the remaining five years of Anderson's contract worth $38 million.
The Trail Blazers beat out the New York Knicks in the final bidding for Stoudamire, who was the subject of numerous proposed deals - including at least two that fell through in the final stages.
"I looked at it as a win-win situation - either the Knicks or Portland," Stoudamire said at Newark Airport before boarding a flight back to Toronto before joining his new team.
The Knicks were believed to be offering Chris Mills, Chris Childs, a No. 1 draft pick and a substantial amount of money. General manager Ernie Grunfeld apparently never improved his offer even after he was warned that Stoudamire could get away.
"I don't know how close we were. That's for them to say," Grunfeld said.