Shortly before Christmas in 1983, the New Jersey Nets reluctantly received a "gift." They were persuaded to take back Micheal Ray Richardson, the player they waived when he had failed to report to a drug clinic as ordered two months earlier.
The NBA felt the only way to make its drug-abuse policy effective was to reinstate Richardson. Not without considerable protest did the Nets agree to give the talented guard a last chance.
Now, the Nets wish the league would force some more Richardsons on them. Because Richardson, engaged in a daily fight to beat a drug problem, has become their best player.
Richardson scored 29 points Tuesday night at Pontiac, Mich., including the go-ahead basket at the end of the third quarter to lead the Nets to a 119-117 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Richardson's three-point bomb gave the Nets a 90-89 lead. Buck Williams, who had a career-high 33 points and had 17 rebounds, kept the Nets in front the rest of the way to end the Pistons' streak of nine home-court wins in a row.
It was the third win in a row for the Nets, who appear ready to make a move. With Darryl Dawkins playing a third straight game for the first time this season, the Nets are closer to being healthy than they have since the opening of the season. They still don't have backup guard Darwin Cook, but the other injured players have returned.
Through all the injuries, Richardson, always regarded as an outstanding talent, has been an ironman. He has played around 45 minutes in many games and has excelled at both ends of the court.
"With all those injuries, I don't know what we would have done without Sugar," Coach Stan Albeck said, mentioning Richardson by nickname. "He has to battle his problem constantly, yet he has come through for us so often. You really have to admire the guy."
The 6-5 Richardson, who recently had a triple-double, had seven assists and seven rebounds in this game to complement Williams.
The Pistons, coming off an overtime win at Milwaukee Monday night, had won 14 of their previous 16 games. However, with starting forwards Kelly Tripucka and Dan Roundfield out with injuries, back-to-back wins against good teams proved impossible.
Boston 110, Chicago 106--Michael Jordan turned in another spectacular performance at Chicago, but the rookie couldn't handle the world champions' one-two punch of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls led, 80-76, after three quarters, but Bird scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and McHale scored 12 of his 29 in the final six minutes of the game.
Jordan, sinking 14 of 25 field-goal attempts, had 41 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. But, after his jumper with 3 1/2 minutes remaining cut Boston's lead to 100-98, Jordan fouled out and the Bulls were out.
In stretching their lead in the Atlantic Division to 1 1/2 games, the Celtics won for the 14th time in the last 17 games.
Phoenix 108, Denver 103--The Suns are shining now that Walter Davis is back. In this game, his second of the season, the 6-6 guard scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to help the Suns come from behind for their second win in a row. A baseline jumper by Davis with 25 seconds left gave Phoenix a 104-103 lead. A knee injury during the exhibition season kept Davis out of the first 47 league games.
Dallas 112, Atlanta 103--Jay Vincent scored 16 points in a decisive second quarter at New Orleans and finished with 28. Vincent helped the Mavericks grab a 10-point lead, and they pulled away steadily in the second half until they built a 19-point lead with seven minutes left.
Only 3,127 fans showed up at the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena. They saw Dominique Wilkins lead all scorers with 36 points and all rebounders with 12.
Kansas City 135, San Antonio 116--Eddie Johnson scored 30 points at Kansas City to help the Kings end a four-game losing streak and pile up their biggest winning margin of the season. Mark Olberding made two free throws early in the third quarter to start a string of 30 consecutive free throws made by the Kings the rest of the way.
Portland 126, Utah 106--Rookie Sam Bowie scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds at Portland to lead the Trail Blazers to an easy victory. Bowie almost held his own with Mark Eaton, the Jazz giant who had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. New York 110, Seattle 108--Bernard King scored 12 of his team's last 20 points at Seattle as the Knicks ended a 15-game road losing streak with only their third win in 25 games away from home. King had 29 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.