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NBA NOTEBOOK : Sikma’s Trademark Withers in New Role

NEWSDAY

Dick Motta once said it was the most innovative move he had seen in his coaching career, which began in the ‘50s. In a century or so, some coach will run across it while watching videotapes and say, “That was a heck of a move. Wonder why it never caught on?” No one has been able to invent a name for it--like “skyhook.” It is known simply by the name of its originator--The Sikma Move.

It is not exactly majestic. Even when Jack Sikma was a spry 25, it was, at best, jerky. It calls for a 180-degree pivot, a step back, and a shot from way behind the head. If someone tries to block it, the pivot foot is still in place, so Sikma can fake the shot and go past the defender.

At 34, he still can do the move better than anyone, primarily because no one else does it. But he is doing it less these days because in his old basketball age Sikma has become a 6-foot-11, 255-pound perimeter center--sort of a Bill Laimbeer with class.

“I don’t use it as much anymore,” said Sikma, who will be in Madison Square Garden when the Milwaukee Bucks play the New York Knicks Saturday. “I’m just not in the low post as much anymore. My game has kind of changed.”

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It says a lot about Sikma that he can make such an adjustment 13 years into his career. And he has made it effectively. Last week in a game against the San Antonio Spurs, rookie David Robinson chose to double down low and leave Sikma unguarded. Sikma responded by converting five three-point shots and scoring a season-high 29 points while Robinson had 18.

Still, it seems strange not seeing Sikma down low, whirling around and utilizing The Sikma Move.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I have found during my career that I get the most playing time by doing what the coach tells me to do. So that’s what I have always done.”

Sikma says coaches have shown the most interest in the move. Many have inquired about how he invented it (he did it with the help of his college coach). Motta used to challenge every big man he coached to learn the move. Some would practice it and use it sporadically during games. But Sikma says no player has ever asked him about the mechanics of the shot.

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In a way, that is surprising because the shot is such an effective inside technique. For tall players who do not have the leaping ability of Patrick Ewing or Akeem Olajuwon, it would be helpful.

But then, it also is not surprising because very few players asked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to teach them the skyhook. If The Sikma Move included bouncing the ball between the legs 50 times, maybe it would have looked cooler and become more popular.

As it is, it has only been good enough to help Sikma win a championship (with the ’79 Seattle SuperSonics) and keep him in the league 13 years. Sikma knows, however, that when he retires, the The Sikma Move will become extinct. But he doesn’t get dramatic about it. “It’s a unique shot, and it sets me apart,” Sikma says. “But that shot and 25 cents will buy you a newspaper, and that’s about it.”

That may be true, and there is no doubt is not the most awesome move in the history of basketball. It may, however, be what Motta said it is -- the most innovative we have seen in quite a while.

One move that did not thrill Spurs Coach Larry Brown occurred Wednesday when his team signed guard Johnny Moore.

Brown made it clear that it was not his decision. “I’m happy for Johnny after what he’s been through,” Brown said. “But it really hurt to get rid of (Jeff) Lebo.”

Spurs General Manager Bob Bass made the decision to sign Moore, the popular ex-Spur whose career was interrupted in 1985 when he contracted desert fever, a rare form of meningitis. Moore, 31, apparently has recovered. He was working out with the Continental Basketball Association Tulsa team when Bass called.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Pooh Richardson consumes one of the most interesting refreshments during timeouts -- honey. I wanted to ask why but didn’t get the chance. But then, it might have been a dumb question. When you think about it, considering his name, it makes perfect sense.

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During the world champion Detroit Pistons’ recent 88-84 loss to the Miami Heat, teammates and buddies Mark Aguirre and Isiah Thomas had a heated exchange of words on the floor. Thomas told Aguirre, “You’re blowing it,” while the game was in progress. Aguirre responded, “You mean I’m losing this game by myself?” Later, the two made peace, and because their friendship includes an exchange of kisses, it probably is safe to assume they literally kissed and made up.

Once Thomas gets a full dose of the regular-season Aguirre and his massive mood swings, it will be interesting to see if their off-court friendship survives. It probably will help that Aguirre currently has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of the lineup for a while. Absence makes the poison less potent.

Aguirre has proven conclusively during his eight-year career that he cannot make it through an 82-game season without causing several major and minor distractions. The Pistons were on such a roll last season that even Aguirre could not disrupt them. But now he has a full season to work. The blowup with Thomas occurred before the season was two weeks old. There will be more.

Several general managers are predicting Brian Shaw and Il Messaggero Roma of the Italian league will reach agreement on the settlement of his contract shortly, and that Shaw will return to the United States and join the Celtics. Il Messaggero Roma apparently has let it be known that it is in the market for an American guard.

Atlanta Hawks General Manager Stan Kasten points out that the Italian season ends April 14, and if Il Messaggero Roma does not not make the playoffs, Danny Ferry could join the Cleveland Cavaliers for the National Basketball Association playoffs. “Ferry could be back,” Kasten said. “This might help Cleveland sooner than anyone thinks.”

This observation is rather obvious, but cocaine really did hurt Mitchell Wiggins’ game. The Houston Rockets guard, who was banned for two years because of cocaine use, has averaged nearly 22 points since returning. In his first four NBA years, he averaged 9.6 points and his highest average was 12.4. Wiggins credits his offensive burst to clean living and hard work. He also knows it is going to pay off for him. Wiggins is making only $250,000 and is an unrestricted free agent after the season. “Hopefully I can get a job,” he said. “Do you think I can make some money? I would like to stay in Houston, but I might have to test the waters.”

Meanwhile, Rockets Coach Don Chaney said don’t be fooled by the eight minutes former starter Sleepy Floyd played against the Knicks Tuesday. “He’s not in my doghouse, if that’s what you’re wondering,” said Chaney, who has fooled a lot of people. “He’s been struggling, and I’ve got some young guards I have to make decisions on.”

Right. You want to find out if Anthony Bowie and Byron Dinkins can play, so you bench your starting point guard. Floyd also will be an unrestricted free agent, and he was close to signing a new deal with the Rockets. But now, he may not. “This definitely will have an effect,” Floyd said.

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