Two days after completing a trade that seemed too good to be true, the Utah Jazz found out that it was.
Utah, which has long coveted a center who can average double figures scoring per game, thought it had finally landed one on Monday when it traded Greg Foster, Chris Morris and its No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft to the Orlando Magic for Rony Seikaly.But Seikaly never showed up. Under NBA rules, the 6-11 center had 48 hours to get from Florida to Utah. He was booked on at least five flights on Wednesday.
The plane tickets went unused.
The Jazz, as was their right, voided the deal at 8 p.m. sharp Wednesday night.
Foster and Morris took part in game-day shootaround practice with the Magic on Wednesday morning. By Wednesday night they were so anxious to hear their fate that they got together in Foster's hotel room just prior to Utah's game against the New York Knicks and called the Jazz brass for information.
They were told that they were going to become members of the Jazz once again. Of course, that's assuming that another trade doesn't happen before the 4 p.m. trading deadline.
"We genuinely dealt in good faith and wanted Rony Seikaly here," said Jazz vice president Scott Layden. "We think it would have been a great fit for him . . . . But it's all for naught now. He will not be in a Jazz uniform."
Nor will he be in an Orlando uniform. While the Magic now have the rights to Seikaly, he's burned too many bridges to rejoin the team, according to sources there.
Unless the Magic can trade him before the deadline, the team is expected to suspend him without pay for the remainder of the season. CNN reported that Seikaly is hoping to be waived so that he can play out the rest of the year in Greece, where he went to high school.
Money - or "drachmas," as Layden put it - was a major reason Seikaly will not be with the Jazz. There were also reports out of Orlando that Seikaly simply didn't want to play in Utah.
"If someone doesn't want to be here, then maybe we're better off," said Layden.
Media reports on Tuesday indicated that the main sticking point was that Seikaly wanted to have the next two years of his contract guaranteed rather than at the team's option, but that wasn't true, Layden said. The Jazz were willing to have the two years guaranteed, according to Jazz owner Larry H. Miller.
The biggest problem was that Seikaly's agent, Steve Kauffman, wouldn't tell the Jazz exactly what his client wanted.
"The agent never would land on anything concrete that he wanted from us," said Miller. "He made allusions to things, but he would never pin it down. We'd ask him what he really wanted, what was the real problem and he never would commit to us. There was nothing concrete that we ever rejected."
Neither Layden nor Miller spoke to Seikaly directly, working through his agent during the entire 48 hours. The Jazz brass tried contacting the player personally, but were unsuccessful.
Jazz stars John Stockton and Karl Malone, however, got through and spoke with their would-be teammate. Malone said Seikaly seemed anxious to come to Utah to try to win an NBA title.
Reports out of Orlando, however, seem to indicate otherwise.
Danny Schayes, a Jazz draft pick in 1981 who played two years in Utah, was a teammate of Seikaly's in Orlando. Schayes says he tried to tell Seikaly that living along the Wasatch Front had its strong points.
"I still have friends there," Schayes told the Orlando Sentinel. "There's a lot of beautiful country out there, and besides that, they have a great team out there that went to the Finals last year."
Seikaly is the second NBA player this week who refused to report after being traded. Kenny Anderson was dealt from Portland to Toronto, but did not report to the Raptors. Toronto, however, was able to get out of the jam by sending Anderson to Boston on Wednesday.
"I am very worried about the direction of the league," said Miller. "I think Kenny Anderson and maybe Rony Seikaly are one indicator that things are out of control. The whole notion of a possible lockout is that we've lost control of the league as owners, and we have to get it back."
Layden said for the Jazz, now is a time for healing.
"We need to mend relationships (with Foster and Morris) and get these guys back in the fold and back in our system," said Layden. "We cannot allow these things to affect us. We are just going to move on and put this behind us. Life goes on."
Seikaly had struggled of late. While he averaged 15 points in 47 games with the Magic this season, he'd only netted double figures twice in the previous 11 games, giving rise to rumors that back and leg injuries were bothering him more than he was letting on.
Still, the would-have-been acquisition of Seikaly was almost universally considered a coup for the Jazz.