When the Utah Jazz agreed to a trade Monday night with the Orlando Magic, they hoped new center Rony Seikaly would be in Salt Lake City in time to play in Wednesday night's game against the New York Knicks in the Delta Center.
Now the Jazz are just hoping that Seikaly will come to Salt Lake. Period.The trade, widely lauded locally as the deal to put the Jazz over the top, may not happen after all. Seikaly had a plane ticket to Utah for Wednesday morning
but reportedly never boarded the plane in Orlando.
The 6-11 Seikaly is threatening to not report to the Jazz. He has until Wednesday at 8 p.m. to do so. If he fails to report, the trade can either be reworked or undone. It would likely be undone.
Ex-Jazzmen Chris Morris and Greg Foster, who both arrived in Orlando and met the local media on Tuesday afternoon, would be headed back to Utah in such a circumstance.
"I'm excited about playing with that team, but this is a business," said Seikaly on Tuesday. "Things have to be right and things are not right."
If Seikaly doesn't report, Foster and Morris will be unable to play in Tuesday night's Magic game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
At issue for Seikaly is his contract situation the next two years. Under Seikaly's current agreement, the team he's playing for has the option to renew his deal for the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons for a two-year total of $8.5 million. In other words, if the Jazz like what Seikaly does for them during the rest of this season, they can bring him back for two more years.
But it also gives the Jazz the option to sever ties with Seikaly at the end of the season, at which time they could go out and try to sign a free agent - like Isaac Austin, for instance - in his place.
Sources say Seikaly wants to take the option out, making the contract guaranteed by the Jazz. Utah, apparently, likes having the option.
Seikaly said Tuesday evening that he has purchased a plane ticket to Salt Lake, but that he won't use it "unless the situation is taken care of."
His agent, Steve Kauffman, said only, "I don't know (if he will report)," and wouldn't comment further.
The Jazz still want Seikaly in a bad way. Seikaly told an Orlando reporter that Utah stars John Stockton and Karl Malone both talked to him on the phone to tell him how excited they were to have him as their teammate.
Jazz vice president Scott Layden was hopeful that the differences could be worked out.
"He has until 8 p.m. Salt Lake time (tonight) to report," Layden told the Deseret News Tuesday night. "I don't want to start talking about it being a problem when it isn't a problem yet. We have a wonderful place here where he can be part of a team that will win a lot of games. We're hopeful that it will all work out."
The Orlando management, which welcomed Morris and Foster to their city on Tuesday, were concerned that the deal may not be completed after all.
"It's important for Rony to show up for the deal to go through," said Magic general manager John Gabriel. "There is some concern (that the trade will not happen)."
Immediately upon finding out about the trade, Seikaly said he was looking forward to coming to Utah. "Obviously this is a great opportunity," he said. "Having a chance to play with two legends is the type of thing you dream of."
But that was before the contract situation became an issue.
Malone, meanwhile, refused to talk to the media about his thoughts on the trade for the second day in a row on Tuesday.
The rest of the team, while to a man saying that they will miss Morris and Foster, have said Seikaly's low post presence will help the Jazz.
"His ability to score inside is one of the things that intrigues us," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.
"It gives us another guy who can take some of the pressure off Karl Malone. Hopefully he can compliment him, because Karl's learned to shoot from the perimeter."
The Jazz, with or without Seikaly, will take on the Knicks - without the injured Patrick Ewing, for the only time this year in the Delta Center. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.