The New York Knicks acquired forward Sidney Green from the Detroit Pistons yesterday in exchange for forward/center Ron Moore and a second-round draft choice, a deal that virtually clears the way for the Washington Bullets to obtain the services of free agent forward Bernard King.
A spokesman for the Knicks said that Green, a fifth-year player from Nevada-Las Vegas, would replace King in the team's salary structure.
"From the beginning, we have consistently said that we have a greater need for rebounding and for a younger player with a brighter future," said John Cirillo, the Knicks' public relations director. "Bernard King has had some great moments as a New York Knick and we wish him well -- but he just doesn't fit into our plans."
When he heard news of the trade between the Knicks and the Pistons, King, who has maintained he "was a Washington Bullet" from the time he signed the offer sheet, said he "got really excited.
"I don't think it might come to pass now; it's already come to pass," he said in a telephone conversation from his home in New Jersey. "New York can't possibly match the offer sheet now; now we let the deadline pass and that's it."
Earlier this month, the Knicks signed Green to an offer sheet for a reported three years at an estimated salary of $700,000 per year. Detroit matched the offer but the Knicks never lost interest in him.
The Bullets signed King, 30, the NBA's leading scorer during the 1984-85 season, to a reported two-year, $2 million offer sheet Oct. 16. Had New York decided to match that offer, under the rules of the NBA's salary cap, it wouldn't have had enough money remaining to acquire Green at his salary.
The Knicks still officially have until midnight Saturday to decide whether they'll match the Bullets' offer to King. The only way they could keep him would be to trade a player making enough money to keep their payroll where it was before they acquired Green. Only three other Knicks are at that salary level (above $700,000 a year) -- Patrick Ewing, Bill Cartwright and Pat Cummings. A trade involving any of those three does not seem likely before Saturday.
The teams could agree on possible compensation before that. That would allow King to join the Bullets immediately. If the Knicks don't match the offer, the Bullets will add him without having to give up any players or draft choices.
Before extending their offer sheet to him, the Bullets offered the Knicks a second-round choice as compensation. The Knicks wanted more.
Trade talks between the Knicks and Pistons regarding Green were stalemated until resuming in earnest Monday. The Knicks were trying to peddle forward Cummings, whose 1987-88 salary is approximately the same as Green's. Had Detroit accepted, New York could then have matched the Bullets' offer to King and retained his services without going over the salary cap.
King didn't want to discuss just when he'll be able to join the Bullets. The team will play an exhibition Friday against the Atlanta Hawks in Baltimore and one against the New Jersey Nets on Saturday.
The latter game will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York. King said that he'll "absolutely" be there, although in what capacity remains to be seen.
"I can't address that at this point," he said. "Talking about playing right now is speculation; the reality at this moment is that as far as I know the Knicks and Bullets haven't had any conversations about compensation."
He said he hadn't talked to Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry or Coach Kevin Loughery. Ferry, Loughery and Knicks General Manager Al Bianchi were unavailable to comment yesterday.