THE NBA : Ellis Has Gone From a Sonic Boom to Bust

Dale Ellis and the Seattle SuperSonics are finally near splitsville. Like many of Ellis' relationships, this one has been stormy.

The king of the post-up jump shooters fought Xavier McDaniel last week after a practice in which several teammates taunted Ellis, persuading Coach K.C. Jones to shorten the drill.

Ellis' rise and fall in the Pacific Northwest mirrors that of the SuperSonics:

July 23, 1986--Seattle acquires him from the Dallas Mavericks' bench for Al Wood.

Spring, 1987--Ellis averages 25 points in the playoffs as the SuperSonics, a 39-43 team, surprise Dallas and Houston to reach West finals.

March 1, 1988--After a victory over the Lakers, Ellis' wife, Monique, engages in a fight in public with Bobby Jo Lister, teammate Alton's spouse.

Jan. 8, 1989--Ellis is arrested after an argument with Monique, charged with assault and resisting arrest and fined $346.

Jan. 12, 1990--Ellis crashes his car into an on-ramp abutment, suffers broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He is convicted of drunken driving and sentenced to one day in a rehab center.

Nov. 20, 1990--Ellis, who hasn't played this season because of a nerve injury, arrives late for a home game against the New Jersey Nets, doesn't sit on the bench but in owner Barry Ackerley's seat at half-court, irritating teammates. Says Nate McMillan: "It shows who the big man around here is."

Nov. 21, 1990--McDaniel fights Ellis.

Aside from that, it's been routine.

Just asking: The Lakers are a fast-break team, right?

The best way to run is to play good defense, right?

Why not make one more adjustment in the starting lineup--A.C. Green for Vlade Divac--to field their best defensive team? For all his potential, Divac is the fourth option in the offense. His points aren't carrying anyone, and his oft-slack defense hurts. Why not let him tear up No. 2 centers now and grow into a starter later?

Say good night: After the Atlanta Hawks had lost a second time to the Charlotte Hornets, the players held a closed-door meeting.

Said an unidentified Hawk to the Atlanta Constitution:

"It was pretty simple. We talked about how we went to management and said we wanted the other guy (former coach Mike Fratello) out of here. We wanted a guy who would treat us like men. (The Hawks subsequently hired mild-mannered Bob Weiss).

"We're mishandling it. I think we all understand, if we don't turn things around, we're the ones who'll leave."

Said General Manager Pete Babcock: "Mike Fratello told me it was important to make changes in the nucleus of the club. Mike may have been correct."

First on most lists of potential deportees is aging Moses Malone, a poor fit in Weiss' passing game. Meanwhile, the Hawks suffered their seventh consecutive loss Saturday night.

It's hard to tell the expansion teams anymore.

The worst two records in each conference belong to old-line teams, so the new members must be doing something right.

Minnesota--Coups: former UCLA guard Pooh Richardson in the draft, former Laker Tony Campbell in the expansion draft. Coach Bill Musselman's slow-down style gives everyone trouble, but he's loath to play newcomers (Richardson sat half a season behind, honest, Sidney Lowe; where's No. 1B pick Gerald Glass?), and uses his starters in more than 80% of games.

Is this win-a-little-now stuff the way to build a team?

Musselman is eerily intense; Pat Reusse of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis wrote that he has eyes "like a guy driving down a dirt road in Kansas after just killing a farm house full of people."

Charlotte--Coup: getting Armon Gilliam for Kurt Rambis. Original mistake: passing up erratic big man Rony Seikaly for erratic guard Rex Chapman. Chapman is catching fire at last, making 59% of his three-point attempts. However, Seikaly is still 6 foot 11. Problem: owner George Shinn is Atlantic Coast Conference-happy. He pressed for drafting North Carolina's J.R. Reid and reportedly had to be talked out of dealing for former Virginian Ralph Sampson.

Orlando--More of a veterans approach but strong drafts (rising star Nick Anderson last year, Dennis Scott this time) offer hope. A sensation when the Magic started 7-7 last season, but then the team went 11-57. Problem: desperate for a big man. Greg Kite starts.

Miami--Indifferent early results but Heat is doing it right, with young players. Coups: Seikaly; Sherman Douglas, nabbed in '89's second round. Cleverly crafted front-end-loaded offer sheet for John (Hot Rod) Williams might have had Cleveland wondering if it was worth it to match. If the Heat had pulled that one off, it might be close to making a run for the playoffs. Problem: Coach Ron Rothstein is up-tight.

NBA Notes

Sacramento General Manager Jerry Reynolds on the Golden State Warriors: "They probably could beat the Lakers for third in the division." . . . After a loss at Boston, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz said: "You look down at (the Celtics') bench and you see players who are hungry. You look down at ours and see players who don't belong in the league."

He'll be sorry: Detroit's John Salley continues to illustrate Piston balance by taking shots at Michael Jordan. Said Salley: "It would be hard for Michael Jordan to play on this team." . . . Add sorry: Seattle's Gary Payton had a good exhibition game against Jordan and announced: "I can play defense on anyone, even Michael Jordan." In their first real meeting, Jordan stole the ball from Payton the first two times the rookie brought it up and went for 33 points.

The New Jersey Nets' Sam Bowie, before the team ended its record road losing streak at 34 games: "The most obvious problem is we're not a good ball team, whether we're at home or on the road." . . . Isiah Thomas, warned that another poke in the eye might cost him his sight, threw away his goggles in frustration over his shooting and scored 32 points at Indianapolis. Included were a short jump shot with six seconds left in regulation to tie the game and two three-pointers in overtime.

Did Alex English retire and forget to tell anyone? The former Nugget, 35, is averaging 18 minutes, 6.5 points and shooting 33% in Dallas. . . . Maybe 15's the charm: The Philadelphia 76ers signed Andre Turner and Jim Farmer to shore up the backcourt after Johnny Dawkins' loss. Between them, Turner and Farmer have been waived or left unprotected 14 times.

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