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Trading Deadline Passes Quietly

On the slowest NBA trading deadline day in 13 years, only one minor deal was made between Orlando and Atlanta. A three-way trade that would have sent Los Angeles Clippers forward Maurice Taylor to the New York Knicks fell through.

Thursday's lone trade sent guard Anthony Johnson from the Hawks to the Magic for a conditional second-round draft pick.

The deal that was scuttled, for reasons that were unclear, would have sent Taylor to the Knicks, John Wallace from New York to Vancouver and Othella Harrington from the Grizzlies to the Clippers, several league sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.

Taylor was so upset that the deal fell through that he initially refused to get off the team bus when the Clippers arrived at the Target Center in Minneapolis for their game against the Timberwolves.

Taylor, who has said he won't re-sign with the Clippers when he becomes a free agent next summer, eventually relented and played in the game.

Not since 1987, when Ben Poquette was the only player traded (going from Cleveland to Chicago), had there been so slow of a deadline day.

"I thought there would at least be a couple of salary cap related deals," Seattle SuperSonics general manager Wally Walker said.

In recent years, there were five trades involving 18 players in 1999, four trades involving 13 players in 1998 and six trades involving 15 players in 1997.

This has been an exceptionally slow season for trades, with only two completed during the season the three-way trade sending Toni Kukoc to Philadelphia, Larry Hughes to Golden State and John Starks to Chicago; and the deal that sent Dale Ellis from Milwaukee to Charlotte. Another deal, Danny Fortson from Boston to Toronto for Alvin Williams and Sean Marks, was nullified when Williams failed his physical.

The Clippers were trying to trade Taylor because they feared losing him and getting nothing in return when he becomes a free agent after the season. The 6-foot-9 power forward is the leading scorer for the Clippers, averaging 17.3 points.

Taylor's agent, David Falk, has said he will demand the maximum allowable salary for his client when he becomes a free agent. On Tuesday night, Falk said he would not agree to a sign-and-trade deal over the summer even if the Clippers failed to trade Taylor by the deadline.

Falk did not return a call Thursday night.

If the Knicks had acquired Taylor, they would have acquired his so-called Larry Bird rights and would have been able to exceed the salary cap even more than they already have to retain him.

Knicks general manager Scott Layden refused to comment on any trading activity.

"This is the team we have, a team of good balance and depth, and we're as happy after the deadline as we were before it," Layden said.

Harrington was traded from Houston to Vancouver last summer and has been unhappy playing in Canada. Wallace signed with the Knicks last summer as a free agent after playing the previous two seasons in Toronto.

Another trade that never came off even though it was still alive less than an hour before the 6 p.m. EST deadline involved center Ike Austin going from Washington to Detroit for the rights to Bison Dele, the free-spirited center who walked away from tens of millions of guaranteed dollars when he decided to retire last summer at age 30.

Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan had been eager to make a deal, but like most everyone else around the league instead found himself sitting tight with the same players.

"It's gotten to the point where three-way trades are more common than 1-on-1 trades," Magic general manager John Gabriel said.

Orlando had been trying to find a taker for forward Derek Strong in order to clear enough salary cap space to be able to offer maximum salary deals to upcoming free agents Grant Hill and Tim Duncan.

The Magic now will have to either work out a sign-and-trade deal or renounce their rights to guard Ron Mercer if they still plan to offer maximum salaries to two high-tier free agents this summer.

Johnson, in his third NBA season, averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 assists in 38 games for the Hawks. He will be the third-string point guard in Orlando behind Darrell Armstrong and Chucky Atkins.

Johnson was originally drafted in the second round, 40th overall, by the Sacramento Kings.

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