The Houston Rockets offered the Indiana Pacers a four-for-one "bargain"--two of the first three 1983 picks, plus a first-rounder in 1984, plus a veteran player--to forego today's NBA coin toss for first choice in the June 28 draft. But the Pacers--same as the Rockets--would rather have one Ralph Sampson than the two next-best players in college basketball, plus a good one next year, plus Caldwell Jones or Allen Leavell.
"We just listened," a Pacers spokesman said. "We're perfectly content to go into the coin toss, stare them in the eye and flip."
To the winner between the past season's two biggest losers goes Virginia's 7-foot-4, three-time college player of the year--barring an unexpected trade.
The toss will be made in New York by Commissioner Larry O'Brien--rather, tosses, including a preliminary flip to see which side gets to call "heads" or "tails" on the big one--and Ray Compton of the Pacers' front office said, "We're going there to win. We're on a roll and everything's going our way." He based his optimism on sale, already, of 4,200 season tickets, 3 1/2 times last year's total, and new owners--one, Herb Simon, to make the call if Indiana wins that privilege. But the Rockets have in General Manager Ray Patterson the man who "won" the Milwaukee-Phoenix flip of 1969 (Suns called heads; it came up tails) and got Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) into the Bucks.
And, "If we don't win the flip," said Patterson, whose other pick of the top three came from Cleveland in a long-ago deal, "we certainly will be talking to a lot of teams. The second and third choices may be more valuable to another club than to us" . . .
And at Virginia, after Ralph Sampson, what? How about Olden Polynice, 6-10, 212, born in Haiti. Signed a U-Va. letter of intent in October, then bade fair to gladden Wahoo hearts by averaging 23 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks as a senior at the Bronx's All Hallows High; first-team all-New York City.