Maryland's Albert King is seeking a contract worth close to $2 million over five years, while in a turnabout Virginia's Ralph Sampson met again with the Boston Celtics yesterday to discuss an offer reportedly worth close to $750,000 annually.
King, Maryland's 6-foot-6 all-American forward, will return to Maryland for his senior year, sources said yesterday, unless he is offered a multiyear contract worth $400,000 a year with no deferred payments.
Only one NBA team, the Chicago Bulls, is close to that kind of figure, according to NBA sources. The Bulls pick fourth in the NBA draft. The New Jersey Nets, the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors have also shown interest in King.
"The Bulls are the only team that's a real factor. That could change, but right not, they're it," a source said.
The Celtics, who own the first pick in the draft, have been courting Sampson publicly all month. Two weeks ago Arnold (Red) Auerbach, Celtic president, and Harry Mangurian, team owner, met with Sampson's parents, Virginia Coach Terry Holland and Sampson's high school coach, Roger Bergey. Three days after that meeting, in which a contract worth between $350,000 and $400,000 annually was discussed, Sampson announced he would return to UVA for his sophomore season.
Auerbach and Mangurian met yesterday with Sampson, his parents, Holland and Bergey.
According to Holland, the meeting was held because Auerbach insisted on meeting with Sampson face to face, apparently because he did not believe that Sampson was speaking for himself when he first rejected the Celtics.
When he was telling Holland about the arrangements for this second meeting, according to Holland, Sampson said, "I tried to tell him (Auerbach) no, but he just wouldn't listen."
"The second meeting was essentially the same thing, an instant replay of the first meeting except that this time Ralph was there," Holland said last night. He added that Sampson did not seem receptive to the Celtics at any price.
As for the $750,000 the Celtics were reportedly willing to offer, Holland said, "They sure never talked like that."
Holland said Sampson never gave the Celtics a flat no, but added, "they never asked for a flat no. They just kept saying they couldn't believe he would turn this down."
Holland said he remained convinced that Sampson would be at UVA next year.
Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell met with King yesterday but said he did not advise his star.
"Now's the time when you find out how serious these guys (the pros) are," Driesell said. "The next two days is when they'll be making their real offers to all these guys -- Albert, Sampson, all of them."
For the past two weeks, King has said, "I haven't decided yet." Yesterday, he gave Driesell the same answer during their meeting in Driesell's office.
Members of the Terrapin basketball team all expressed the same thoughts: "We all kind of figure Albert's going to be here," said one player, "but that may be wishful thinking on our part."
The Warriors, drafting third, would have the first crack at King. At the moment, though, they are most interested in Darrell Griffith of Louisville because a big guard is one of their prime needs.
Chicago's need is a small forward or a point guard. General Partner John Kovler has said that he would be "very interested in putting Albert King in a Chicago Bulls uniform if we had the chance."
The Nets, who have the sixth and seventh picks in the first round, could not draft King unless Chicago and Denver, picking fifth, passed him up -- which seems unlikely in Chicago's case.
King, from Brooklyn, would like to play in the New York area. But friends said yesterday that playing for the Nets would not appeal to him nearly as much as playing for the New York Knicks, who have the 12th pick.
After arriving at Maryland in 1977 as the most highly touted freshman in the school's history, King endured two relatively ordinary years as a freshman and a sophomore.
This past season, however, he blossomed, averaging 22 points and seven rebounds a game while winning the ACC player-of-the-year award. He is considered by most pro scouts a certain future star, though at 190 pounds he is still lighter than pro teams would prefer.
Sampson, the ACC's rookie of the year, averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds and was voted most valuable player in the NIT, which Virginia won. The final victory over Minnesota finished a 24-10 season that saw controversy over whether Sampson was being utilized properly.