Bob Bass, San Antonio Spurs general manager, had to gasp when he opened his mailbox yesterday morning.
Awaiting him was a free agent offer sheet, signed by former Washington Bullet Dave Corzine, endorsed by the New Jersey Nets, and indicating the price it would take to keep the center in a Spurs' uniform next season: $660,000.
Tuesday, the Nets saw to it that Corzine, 26, could receive $3.3 million over the next five years. Whether the De Paul product becomes rich in the Meadowlands remains to be seen. San Antonio has 15 days to match the Nets' offer--which Bass indicated it will--and then either keep Corzine or trade him.
Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry had entertained thoughts of reacquiring Corzine.
"Bob talked to me about him yesterday (Tuesday)," said Bass. That was before word leaked out about the size of Nets owner Joseph Taub's checkbook. Although San Antonio most certainly will be talking trade now, Ferry no longer is interested.
"That's just too much for that type of player for us," said Ferry. "Is he going to beat out (Jeff) Ruland? No way."
Ferry was partly covering up, for he may have misjudged Corzine's talent. Corzine sat on the bench his two years with the Bullets. But averaging 26 minutes of playing time last year, he averaged 10.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a game for Coach Stan Albeck.
"It was either him, Carlos Terry or Ricky Mahorn," said Ferry. "And Terry and Mahorn were playing super then."
Corzine made $105,000 last year under a four-year contract he signed with the Bullets his rookie season.
"When I came into the league, Elvin (Hayes), Wes (Unseld), and Bobby (Dandridge) were making in the $300,000 to $450,000 range," Corzine said from his summer residence in Chicago. "It's four years later and who knows? Obviously, because of the Nets' needs and today's salary structure, things worked out very well for me."
"When you see anything that big, it's going to shock you," said Bass, referring to the offer sheet. "We'll look around the league and see who is interested."
Bass also said that the trade that brought Corzine to San Antonio for two second-round draft choices "wasn't a very bad deal" for Ferry. "Actually, we were taking the chance. At that time we had no idea how well the kid could play."
The Nets, meanwhile, have not hesitated to bid for free agents. Last year, they signed Otis Birdsong to a $1 million a year contract, and Ray Williams to a $500,000 a year contract. Williams since has been traded to Kansas City for Birdsong's old partner, Phil Ford.
"Everything is on hold for us until San Antonio makes a decision," said Nets General Manager Bob MacKinnon. "Corzine is a good rebounder with great physical strength who would play a lot of minutes for us."
That the Nets would both trade Williams and spend so much to get Corzine is a reaction to the beatings--physical and numerical--they took from the Bullets in the first round of the playoffs. Ruland and Mahorn outmuscled Nets center Len Elmore while Williams was ineffective from the outside.
"I absolutely don't know what they're (the Nets) doing," said Ferry. "These salaries are ridiculous. They're working very hard--perhaps too hard--to build a good team quickly. And when you have a lot of capital to work with, you can gamble more and thus make more mistakes."
Corzine said he had asked San Antonio for $400,000 a year last season, but was turned down.
"Nothing happened then all year," he said. "I guess the Spurs were waiting for an offer to match. I don't expect them to keep me at this point. But New Jersey would be a great place to play. I heard they are basketball-crazy there."
Surely, Bob Bass and Bob Ferry would agree.