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Thursday, January 22, 1998

Report: Stoudamire traded to Rockets

HOUSTON (AP) -- Toronto Raptors star guard Damon Stoudamire will be traded to the Houston Rockets today in a six-player deal, ESPN reported.

The cable network, citing no sources, said the Rockets also will receive forward Walt Williams and center Zan Tabak in exchange for center Kevin Willis, guards Mario Elie and Matt Maloney and Houston's No. 1 draft pick in 1998.

The deal will be made official later today, ESPN reported. Raptors spokesman Matt Akler said there was "nothing official yet. ... We do not comment on speculation."

At Toronto's morning practice, Stoudamire, the 1996 rookie of the year, refused to discuss a possible deal.

"I don't have any thoughts about it," coach Darrell Walker told The Canadian Press. "Management's got to do what management's got to do."

He added: "Nobody wants to lose Damon Stoudamire and Walt Williams, but I have nothing to do with it. I'm going to coach the guys that come here."

Speculation of an imminent deal was raised today by the Houston Chronicle and Toronto Sun.

Stoudamire, 5-foot-10, has become one of the top young point guards in the NBA, averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 assists a game.

However, he has been unhappy in Toronto, wanting to play for a contender. The Raptors (6-33) have the second worst record in the NBA, trailing only Denver. The Rockets are 18-18 and have been beset by injuries.

Stoudamire's future with the Raptors became cloudy when former general manager Isiah Thomas -- his mentor and the man who drafted him over other high-profile college players -- left the club following a failed buyout bid and took an announcing job with NBC.

With Stoudamire about to become a free agent and with most signs pointing to him not re-signing, the Raptors had little choice but to trade him if they wanted anything in return.

The 24-year-old guard is in the last year of his rookie contract and earns $1.7 million.

Williams, a 6-foot-8 small forward, signed a five-year $20-million deal with the Raptors after last season. He is averaging 12.3 points a game but has been injured much of the season.

"Wherever I'm at I'll make the best of the situation," Williams said at the morning shootaround. "I don't know what's really going on."

While Stoudamire chose not to speak about trade rumors, his teammates did.

"Damon's painted on buildings here," Williams said. "But trades happen very often."

Tabak is a 7-foot center who used to be a backup in Houston. He has had injury problems in Toronto but appears healthy now, averaging 6.7 points a game. He is in the final year of a contract paying him $950,000.

Willis would give the Raptors the big man they need. He has averaged 19 points and nine rebounds a game this season.

Elie, a defensive specialist on Houston's championship teams, has slowed a step and averages 9.2 points a game.

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