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Hawks Trade Laettner to Pistons

January 23, 1999 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Christian Laettner signed a three-year, $18 million deal Friday with the Atlanta Hawks, who then traded the injured power forward to Detroit for former Kansas star Scott Pollard and a first-round draft pick from Portland.

``It was in everybody’s best interest to allow this happen,″ Hawks general manager Pete Babcock said. ``This way he gets the contract he wanted.″

Laettner, who averaged 13.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game last season, tore his right Achilles’ tendon during a pickup game in September. His agent said Friday that the former Duke star could be ready in March.


``But we won’t know for sure until we get closer to it,″ said agent Lon Babby, who also represents Detroit star Grant Hill. ``It’s in no one’s interest _ the Pistons or Christian’s _ to rush it.″

A source close to the deal said Laettner’s contract will be prorated this year, and he could earn another $4.5 million in incentives.

It will be Laettner’s third stop in a sometimes-stormy career. After being taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the third overall pick, he feuded with teammates and coaches, leading to his trade exit to Atlanta in 1996.

Laettner made his first All-Star team in 1997, but last season lost his starting position to Alan Henderson.

With the Pistons, he will be reunited with fellow Duke alum Hill, with whom he teamed on the 1991 and 1992 NCAA national championship squads. In the 1992 regional final, Duke beat Kentucky 104-103 in overtime on a last-second shot from Laettner set up by a three-quarters-court pass from Hill.

``It’s a good sign that he’s here,″ Hill said. ``I like the fact that he’s here for a few more years. This gives us a good mix of players all in their prime. Christian is really, really competitive.″

Pollard is expected to back up power forward free agent Alan Henderson, who remains unsigned. In his rookie year last season, Pollard played in 33 games, averaging 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Portland’s first-round pick was obtained by Detroit earlier this week in another trade.

Atlanta now holds as many as four first-round picks in the next draft, getting a conditional pick the first year that Detroit makes the playoffs and another when Sacramento picks anywhere from 16-29 in the draft.