The Lakers shouldn't expect any more help from the Ohio Mixers, late of the Continental Basketball Assn.
The Albany Patroons, perhaps. Or the Pensacola Tornados, the La Crosse Catbirds or the Wyoming Wildcatters. But the Ohio Mixers are dead, buried in some CBA graveyard.
However, at least one Mixer alumnus, Wes Matthews, lives on, seven National Basketball Assn. teams and one defunct minor league franchise after Washington drafted him No. 1 out of the University of Wisconsin in 1980.
On Oct. 14, the day his son, Wesley Joel Matthews Jr., was born, Matthews signed with the Lakers.
Wednesday night at the HemisFair Arena, the 27-year-old guard may have experienced something of a rebirth himself, coming off the bench to score 12 points, 8 in a three-minute burst in the fourth quarter, to help the Lakers put away the San Antonio Spurs, 117-108, before a crowd of 10,581.
"We've been waiting on this type of game from him," said Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers in scoring for the third straight game, this time with 25 points, 2 more than guard Byron Scott. "We needed him to come through with a game like this to get him going. We need guys to come off the bench and score some points. We haven't seen that besides Michael (Cooper).
"He and Coop could be an explosive twosome."
The Lakers, winners of seven of their first eight games and the only team in the NBA with just one loss, return after road wins on consecutive nights to play eight of their next nine games in Los Angeles, including one at the Sports Arena against the Clippers.
Wednesday night, they survived a triple-double by the Spurs' All-Star guard, Alvin Robertson, who scored 34 points (24 in the first half), grabbed a team-leading 10 rebounds, handed out 10 assists--and also had 7 first-half steals. Robertson played 45 of the game's 48 minutes.
"This is as wild a game as we've played in a long time," Laker Coach Pat Riley said. "There was a lot of running, and I like that kind of game.
"And Wes Matthews, maybe he was saving it for San Antonio tonight."
Whatever it was he may have been saving, Matthews, cut by the Spurs early in the exhibition season, had been given plenty of time by Riley to do it. He hadn't played a minute in either of the last two Laker games--a possible consequence of dreadful shooting that had seen him make just one basket in his last 12 shots--and was shooting 5 for 24 (20.8%) in five games.
"Riley sat me down the last couple of games," Matthews said, "but he told me not to put pressure on myself, just play basketball. He knew my skills."
In 12 minutes of playing time Wednesday night, Matthews finally put those skills on display. He sank 6 of 7 shots, including three jumpers from 17 feet and beyond in the fourth quarter, a period in which the Lakers widened an 84-82 edge at the start to 109-100 with three minutes to play.
All four Laker guards were productive. Cooper, also coming off the bench, scored 15 points, sinking 3 of 4 three-point efforts, while Scott made both of his attempts from three-point range.
Center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, meanwhile, scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, his second straight night of double-figure rebounding. Abdul-Jabbar, 39, looked positively spry compared to 7-2 Spur center Artis Gilmore, 37, who didn't score a point in the first half and had just six rebounds, four fewer than the 6-4 Robertson.
With Cooper and Matthews filling it up from outside, the Laker bench outscored San Antonio's, 29-16.
"(Riley) is the first coach ever to give me the opportunity to play in the No. 2 (shooting guard) spot and create," Matthews said. "This is Magic's show. He runs it, and you know he's going to deliver."
So far, the Spurs have delivered mostly disappointment for their new coach, Bob Weiss. The Spurs are just 3-7, and Red McCombs, a member of the team's board of directors, said that finishing at .500 would be their equivalent of winning the title.
"One of the things we did not want," Weiss said, "was for those guys (the Laker guards) to be taking potshots like that. Our big people were supposed to be helping out, but there was a breakdown on our part."
Given the Spurs' constant turnover, Matthews said, such breakdowns are likely to continue.
"Too many changes of people," he said. "It's hard to get the right chemistry when there's so many changes."
Matthews was squeezed out of San Antonio by the Spurs' surplus of guards--Robertson, Johnny Moore and No. 1 draft choice Johnny Dawkins--as well as by a reputation for being something of a disruptive influence.
But Wednesday night, the one-time Ohio Mixer showed he might blend in just fine with the Lakers.
Laker Notes Laker forward A.C. Green, who did not play in Dallas Tuesday night, played 13 minutes against the Spurs. He took just one shot and missed it, but he had two rebounds and a steal. The cast on his left thumb remains a problem when he handles the ball and will continue to do so for some time. "It's just too cumbersome for him," Laker Coach Pat Riley said. "I have confidence in A.C., I just don't have confidence in the splint. It's hard for him, but we're going to have to deal with this for the next five or six weeks until the splint comes off. Until then, we want him to focus on his defense and rebounding." . . . Riley insists that Green's limited availability doesn't leave the Lakers too thin on the bench. "I can rotate (Byron) Scott, Magic, James (Worthy) and (Mike) Cooper in different ways," he said. . . . Earvin Johnson, on Spur guard Alvin Robertson: "We didn't want Alvin running around as wild as he was playing in the first half. So we ran the ball up and down the court, figuring we'd tire him out. And we did. He was really tired in the fourth quarter." . . . A Magic move: In the third quarter, Johnson spun across the lane, leaned on Spur forward David Greenwood to keep his balance, and with his back to the basket double-pumped, flipped the ball over his head and banked it off the glass into the basket.