Clyde Drexler to Sonics ‘almost happened,’ confirms George Karl
Former NBA head coach George Karl offered a juicy 1990’s basketball “what-if” on Wednesday, revealing how Clyde “The Glide” Drexler was nearly traded to Karl’s Seattle SuperSonics during the 1995 season.
On Wednesday’ episode of Karl’s Truth + Basketball podcast about the ’90s Sonics, Karl chatted with guest Bob Whitsitt, former general manager of the Sonics and Portland Trail Blazers (and Seattle Seahawks).
Whitshitt reflected on the agenda in Portland upon his arrival, which was essentially to orchestrate a rebuild. Naturally, this meant trading the veteran Drexler, who was aching to compete for another title in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.
Before a Jan. 26, 1995, contest between Portland and Utah, the New York Daily News reported rumors of a possible Drexler for Kendall Gill swap, rumors that Karl dismissed at the time. However, Sonics president Wally Walker acknowledged that the deal had been in the works. Karl has now finally done the same in his discussion with Whitshitt, who shared how the near-deal originated.
“I got to Portland, Paul [Allen] told me the team had to be dismantled…He said I need you, and it’s going to be hard, but you got to dismantle the team and he had already promised Clyde Drexler his 12th new deal and he wasn’t going to follow through on it. So, I had to trade him, and which is fine, I get it. The run was over, it was time to go…I did say to Clyde, I would try to get you to a good situation…I think when a guy’s been that good for an organization, you owe it to him if you can, to try to get him somewhere where he’s still got a chance”
Whitshitt said he offered Walker the deal—which Drexler enthusiastically approved of—but Walker’s suspicions about Portland’s motives caused him to get cold feet and ultimately balked. Instead, Drexler was traded to the Houston Rockets, where he would help Hakeem Olajuwon win the 1995 championship. Drexler averaged 21.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game Houston’s Finals sweep of the Orlando Magic.
Seattle would go to win 57 games and fall to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. They would reach the Finals the following season, losing to Michael Jordan and the 72-win Chicago Bulls in six games.
Karl shared a picture of Drexler in a Sonics uniform, and claimed to be in favor of the trade that never was.
It almost happened… pic.twitter.com/XlMU88xF8a
— George Karl (@CoachKarl22) June 10, 2020
Love the feedback from Sonics fans about our convo with Bob Whitsitt. A lot of surprise about the failed Kendall Gill for Clyde Drexler deal. I wanted it! Wally talked himself out of it. Clyde goes to Houston and wins the title.
Think we would have won it with Clyde in 95??
— George Karl (@CoachKarl22) June 9, 2020