For Kiki Vandeweghe, the chance to play for the New York Knicks, after spending his first nine pro basketball seasons in Denver and Portland, was an opportunity to carry on a rich family tradition.
His father, Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe, was a popular guard for the Knicks in the early ‘50s, known for his relentless hustle and unselfish play.
Kiki is a more gifted scorer than his father and should have a chance to win over the New York fans now that All-Star playmaker Mark Jackson will be lost indefinitely with a knee injury that may require arthroscopic surgery.
“We have a good inside game with Patrick Ewing,” said General Manager Al Bianchi, “and you try to surround that with as many good outside shooters as you can get. It’s especially important in the playoffs when the game gets reduced to a half-court game. People talk about defense, but the bottom lime is putting the ball into the basket.
“With Kiki, I had no concern about how he would fit in with us. I’ve known him for years. Johnny Newman and Kenny Walker wouldn’t be human if they didn’t wonder how bringing in another small forward would affect their role. But they’re the type who can handle it.”
In his second appearance for the Knicks, March 2, Vandeweghe scored 23 points in 24 minutes against the Miami Heat. He is being used in a supporting role to Newman, but he is cutting into the minutes of Walker, an inconsistent shooter.
Without Jackson, however, the Knicks will be hard-pressed to maintain one of the four best records in the Eastern Conference and gain a home-court advantage in the playoffs. They are being pressured from behind by Milwaukee and Atlanta.
“Losing Mark is like cutting off your head,” Coach Rick Pitino said. “It will be a very difficult experience, but we have a lot of confidence in (rookie) Rod Strickland. If he can hold up stamina-wise, he’ll be all right and so will we.”
When the 1988-89 college season began, the top-ranked seniors by National Basketball Association scouts were Stacey King of Oklahoma, Pervis Ellison of Louisville, Sean Elliott of Arizona, Danny Ferry of Duke and Glen Rice of Michigan.
But scouts have re-evaluated the blue-chippers, with Ellison falling out of favor and Ferry now being viewed as no worse than a second choice.
“Trouble with Ellison is that he seldom breaks a sweat,” said one NBA scout, preferring anonymity. “Right now, I’d rate King and Ferry 1 and 1A. Both could play center for certain pro teams, but Ferry’s great passing ability makes him more valuable as a forward.”
The most interesting scenario, of course, would have the Washington Bullets involved in the 1989 NBA lottery, winning the first pick and forcing General Manager Bob Ferry to decide whether to choose his well-rounded son or King, a more prolific scorer and superior shot blocker.
It just might make sense for Ferry to serve as Danny’s agent. Who knows better how to negotiate multi-million dollar contracts?
With a shortage of proven big men among the 1989 graduating class, it is expected that juniors J.R. Reid of North Carolina, Dwayne Schintzius of Florida and Derrick Coleman of Syracuse will declare themselves eligible for the draft. Otherwise, look for NBA teams to take a first-round gamble on the likes of UConn’s Cliff Robinson, 6-10, and Joe Calavita of Vermont, who ordinarily might be second-round selections.
First-round sleepers: Arizona forward Anthony Cook, Houston forward Richard Hollis, Wisconsin guard Trent Jackson and Seton Hall forward Daryll Walker.
One Grant too many: On draft day last June, Chicago forward Horace Grant was hoping the Bulls would draft his twin brother, Harvey, of Oklahoma. Picking right before the Bullets, the Bulls selected center Will Perdue of Vanderbilt.
“I thought with (Bulls forward) Scottie Pippen hurt, the Bulls might pick me,” Harvey said. “But I really didn’t want to play in Chicago because I didn’t want to get caught up with people saying, ‘Harvey had this kind of year. Now it’s your turn.’ ”
Dutch treat: While the Indiana Pacers rank as one of the season’s major busts, the rapid improvement of rookie center Rik Smits, the native of the Netherlands who played at Marist College, bodes well for the future.
“The biggest thing I’ve done is to get the other guys to accept Rik,” Coach Dick Versace said. “I told them, ‘You’re witnessing the changing of the guard at center. This kid is a worker. And, until further notice, I expect you to get him the ball.’ ”
Detroit playmaker Isiah Thomas is being credited with being the man behind the scenes in the acquisition of his Chicago pal Mark Aguirre from Dallas in exchange for Adrian Dantley. Said Dallas TV analyst Bob Weiss: “If the Pistons win the title, should Isiah be voted NBA Executive of the Year?”