The NBA / Thomas Bonk : Doug Moe Wants to Set Record Straight


Doug Moe wants to clear up one matter right now, before the season is too far gone. Moe, the coach of the Denver Nuggets, has an opinion on just about everything, which naturally includes the Lakers.

Do you remember what he said last season? Just before the Lakers played the Nuggets in the Western Conference final, Moe said something that made the Lakers mad. They believed Moe said the Nuggets had a better running team than the Lakers. Actually, Moe did say that. He said the Nuggets run better, but the Lakers run a better fast break. There is a difference.

Unless Portland, Houston or some other overachievers unseat the Nuggets, it will probably be a rematch in May between the Lakers and Denver. So in the interest of honesty, just so there won’t be any misunderstanding in the playoffs, here is what Moe says about this season’s Lakers. You might remember these words just in case another case of misunderstanding breaks out.


On the fast break: “We may have a good chance of beating them because they like to run, but I don’t think they appreciate a team running right back on them. It’s tough having to worry about getting back on defense all the time. They can’t interest us in not running at them.”

On last season’s playoff series: “I think we would have won the fourth game if we hadn’t had those injuries (Lafayette Lever, Alex English and Calvin Natt). We lost the series, 4-1, but it was a whole lot closer than that.”

On the Nuggets’ style: “I’d just love for the Lakers to run every play with us so we can wear their butts out.”

On Maurice Lucas: “All I know is that McAdoo hurt us a lot. He rebounded, blocked shots, ran, scored points and shot the lights out. If Lucas does those things, too, I can’t imagine he could do them a whole lot better than McAdoo.”

On the Lakers: “They’re so damned good. Now they have Lucas and A.C. Green, too. How many guys can you worry about? You’ll go crazy.”

On last year’s comments about the Nuggets running better: “I never said that, but if I did, I meant we had a better fast-paced team.”

In Seattle, the SuperSonics have a new coach and a different home arena, but they’ve gotten off to a slow start as usual. And this season, they haven’t yet had the good fortune to play the Lakers, who were good for three defeats in six games last season.


Coach Bernie Bickerstaff has a couple of problems, one big and one small. Make that one tall (6-foot 11-inch Jack Sikma) and one short (6-3 Gerald Henderson).

Sikma is shooting horribly. In three games last week, Sikma was 3 for 12, 2 for 11 and 1 for 12. The Seattle center is shooting 34.4% and averaging only 11.9 points. If it weren’t for Phoenix, the SuperSonics would be in the Pacific Division cellar.

Henderson, meanwhile, is trying to stay out of the doghouse. Bickerstaff hasn’t publicly ripped his point guard, but he has pulled Henderson out of the lineup for stretches when he uses Danny Young instead.

The criticism of Henderson is that he makes too many turnovers, breaks off the offense and looks for his own shots and hasn’t helped Bickerstaff’s newly installed fast break. Henderson has also taken some heat for not getting the ball often enough to Tom Chambers and Sikma.

Bickerstaff believes Sikma is about due to come out of his slump.

“Yeah, but I hope Bernie doesn’t shoot me first,” Sikma said.

There are 55 players in the NBA who are at least 6-feet 11-inches. Manute Bol of the Washington Bullets is the tallest, at 7-7. Bol’s inseam is 51 inches, but he weighs less than 210 pounds, so Bullet Coach Gene Shue put Bol on a diet.

“If it isn’t nailed down, eat it,” Shue said.

Of the 23 head coaches in the NBA, 14 have been in their current jobs for three years or less. The longevity leader is John MacLeod, who has been in Phoenix for 13 years. Jack Ramsay of Portland and Don Nelson of Milwaukee are next with 10 years in their jobs.


Gene Shue, Dick Motta and Doug Moe have six years in their jobs, while Laker Coach Pat Riley is tied for with Frank Layden of Utah at five years.

It’s looking less and less like Norm Nixon is destined to be a New York Knick. Consider what Coach Hubie Brown had to say about who it takes to run his offense.

“There are only two players in the league smart enough to run my offense,” Brown said. “Rory Sparrow and Maurice Cheeks.”

Since the Knicks are 0-8, maybe Brown should consider simplifying it.

Forgettable quote leader, Early Season Division: “With Moses and Doc, we are as good as ever and still have what it takes to go all the way,” Maurice Cheeks said.

What do Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, Fat Lever, Blair Rasmussen and Willie White have in common?

The Denver Nuggets could use them as their entire starting lineup as what they received when they traded Kiki Vandeweghe to Portland. Natt, Cooper and Lever, plus two draft choices, which turned out to be White and Rasmussen, went to the Trail Blazers for Vandeweghe.


Speaking of the Trail Blazers, many expect Ramsay’s team to arrive in time for the playoffs and challenge the Lakers. But first, Ramsay is going to figure out what to do with his backcourt, where five players are sharing time.

Ramsay is giving considerable playing time to three point guards, starting with Darnell Valentine, then switching back and forth between Steve Colter, who came to camp with tendinitis in his knee and fell behind, and No. 1 draft choice Terry Porter, who some feel is the best overall guard on the team.

Clyde Drexler starts at shooting guard, although his shooting has been sporadic. That means veteran Jim Paxson is coming off the bench for about 20 minutes a game. Paxson isn’t really happy about his lack of playing time, but at his salary level, he could be feeling a whole lot worse.

Paxson is in the second year of a six-year, $6-million contract that lasts through the 1989-90 season, which means it’s doubtful another team would be willing to bite even if the Trail Blazers wanted to trade him.

Drexler’s contract, due to expire after this season, has been extended for two more, so barring a trade, Ramsay’s backcourt personnel are probably going to be around for a while.