As the National Basketball Association prepares to hold its college draft today, the Atlanta Hawks apparently are prepared to offer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a two-year, $2 million a year contract, that would make him the second-highest paid player in the league after Philadelphia's Moses Malone.
The Los Angeles Lakers have offered Abdul-Jabbar, 36, a one-year, $1.2-million contract. He earned $1 million last season.
The Lakers will not let Abdul-Jabbar go to the Hawks without compensation. It was learned they are asking for forward Dan Roundfield and other considerations as inducements not to match the Hawks' offer.
Tom Collins, Abdul-Jabbar's attorney, said he expects his client to sign an offer sheet in the next couple of weeks.
Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers, told Collins, "Go ahead and do what you have to do."
In the draft, the Houston Rockets will make 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson of Virginia the first player chosen, and he could earn as much as $1 million a year from the Rockets. That would make him the highest-paid rookie in the sport, but that's relatively small change compared to the dollars that are being talked about for Abdul-Jabbar and Kevin McHale.
The Bullets have two first-round picks in today's draft, the 10th and 22nd picks overall. With the first pick, if the draft goes the way they think it will, they are expected to select Arizona State guard Byron Scott, Tennessee forward Dale Ellis, Notre Dame guard John Paxson, Louisiana State guard Howard Carter, Indiana guard Randy Wittman, Oklahoma State center Leroy Combs or Houston forward Clyde Drexler.
Still, this is considered an average draft, at best. Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry sent a telex out to the other 22 teams yesterday, saying that if they were interested in his second pick in the first round, all offers would be considered.
No one the Bullets sign will be offered anything near what Sampson, Abdul-Jabbar and McHale will get.
McHale, a 6-11 reserve for the Boston Celtics, is reportedly about to be offered a $7 million, five-year contract by the New York Knicks.
That offer includes an annual salary of $1.25 million, plus an interest-free $3-million loan that would earn McHale another $300,000 a year. The Celtics contend the loan violates the new collective bargaining agreement.
The Knicks are one of five teams that have been given a salary cap for the coming season as part of that agreement. Signing McHale for $1.4 million or more would put them over their limit.
The NBA said yesterday it will make a ruling on the legality of an offer to McHale and the effect it will have on the Knicks' salary cap, once an offer sheet is signed.
McHale's agent, John Sandquist, said McHale has yet to receive a firm offer from the Knicks, but still has no plans to reopen negotiations with the Celtics. " . . . We'll meet with New York this week," he said.
The Celtics' owner, Harry Mangurian, and General Manager Red Auerbach are losing their patience with Sandquist, McHale and the Knicks. They announced yesterday they would match any offers made for McHale.
"I feel we're being used," said Mangurian, referring to Sandquist's negotiations.
"Their reaction is sour grapes,"said Sandquist.
The Celtics were busy on another front yesterday, acquiring guard Dennis Johnson and first- and third-round draft choices in today's draft from the Phoenix Suns for reserve center Rick Robey and two second-round picks.
It appears that the Celtics got the best of the deal. Johnson, 6-4, is a former all-star and one of the top defensive guards in the league; Robey, 6-11, has never been more than a backup in five seasons and averaged only four points last season.
Johnson averaged 14.2 points last season and has a 15.6 career average. The Celtics were without a first-round draft choice before that deal, but now have the 21st pick overall.
Elsewhere, the Seattle SuperSonics traded forward Lonnie Shelton to Cleveland for money and the Cavaliers' second-round pick in the draft, the 36th selection. Shelton, a cocaptain last season, averaged 12.4 points per game.
The Rockets made it known since they won the coin toss with Indiana May 19 for today's first pick that Sampson was their man.
The Indiana Pacers, choosing second, have spurned offers for their pick and are expected to take 6-11 Steve Stipanovich of Missouri. The Rockets, picking third, have indicated they will take forward Rodney McCray of Louisville.