Suns sign Manning to 6-year deal

The Associated Press

PHOENIX The Phoenix Suns signed unrestricted free agent Danny Manning to a six-year, guaranteed contract yesterday, taking a chance that Manning's surgically repaired knees will last until he's at least 35.

Manning, who played in 46 games last season before he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during practice on Feb. 6, also was allowed to buy one share of the limited partnership that will run the Arizona Diamondbacks, a 1998 baseball expansion team.

Suns president Jerry Colangelo, the managing partner of the baseball team, said the $5 million share was a separate arrangement. He also said Manning will be one of the models when the Diamondbacks unveil their uniforms in a few weeks.

Terms of the contract, which could run seven years with an option, were not disclosed, but it was believed to be worth between $6 million and $8 million a year. It includes provisos that void it if Manning hurts himself jet-skiing or riding a dune buggy, part of the Suns' hedge against career-ending injuries.

Ron Grinker, Manning's agent, said the deal was better than a seven-year, $35 million offer which Manning turned down in the summer of 1994 to join the Suns.

Phoenix was able to squeeze out just $1 million under the salary cap to sign the 6-foot-10 forward, the No. 1 pick in the 1988 draft, but Manning accepted with the understanding that he would be well-compensated in the future.

Grinker said there was no fear when Manning's knee blew out, because he trusted Colangelo.

''There was never any question as to what would happen,'' Grinker said. He said he and Colangelo didn't start negotiating until Sept. 29, and the talks were little more than a formality.

''It's never been about money,'' said Grinker, who told Manning about Chris Webber's $59 million contract and got little reaction. He reminded reporters that Manning originally committed to play in Phoenix for $500,000 until the Suns traded Mark West and found more room under the cap.

''It's of no concern to Danny what any other player makes. He would not have signed this is he wasn't pleased. There was very little negotiation, because there didn't have to be,'' Grinker said.

Manning said his only regret about last year was getting hurt in a twin injury to the right ACL tear that occurred in January 1989. Manning tried to come back too early from that rookie-season injury with the Los Angeles Clippers and paid for it with long-term tendinitis.

This time, he has said, he won't return until at least January.

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