THE NBA / MARK HEISLER : Blazers Luring Maniacs All Over League
In Portland, where cabbies ask, “Where to?” and then, “Have they ever heard of the Trail Blazers in (fill in name of your city)?” the Blazermaniacs have a real juggernaut on their hands.
The Trail Blazers won their first 11 games and are now 14-1.
They went four games without ever being behind.
They hit San Antonio with a 49-18 first quarter, making 22 of 25 shots, including five three-pointers. Former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden and stunned Spur Coach Larry Brown both called it the best period of basketball they’d ever seen.
Said Brown: “They could have beaten the all-decade team.”
The Blazers, 19th-best in field goal percentage last season, are running 1-2 with the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge, depressed to a 44% mark in Sacramento last season, is winging away at 60% and on his three-pointers is shooting 56%. Cliff Robinson, 40% last season while being introduced to the concept of shot selection, is at 59%.
“They’re an amazing rebounding team,” Brown said. “Other than at center, they probably have someone who’s as good a rebounder at that position as anyone in the league.”
The Golden State Warriors’ Don Nelson is more effusive, saying: “They’re one of the best put-together teams ever. They did things the right way. I’m proud of them. They’re the best team we’ve played. I really like what they’ve done.”
Are the Blazermaniacs happy, or what?
Said a Portland assistant district attorney to a Los Angeles reporter who had called to inquire about a criminal matter:
“We’re going to kick your butts this year.”
Mosquito in paradise: The Trail Blazers fined Drazen Petrovic $500 for saying he’d go home to Yugoslavia if he couldn’t play in Portland. They rescinded it when he recanted.
Actually, they wouldn’t mind if he shipped out.
Petrovic gets $1.3 million to be the 12th man. If he left, they could suspend him and get half his salary back against their cap.
After their loss to the Phoenix Suns, in which Clyde Drexler was ejected and Petrovic still couldn’t play, mild-mannered Coach Rick Adelman snarled at a reporter who asked about it.
Flirting with immortality: In Sacramento, where a rebuilding project begins annually, the latest one struggles.
At their present 1-12 rate, the Kings would eclipse the 1972-73 76ers’ 9-73 record as the NBA’s worst. The Kings are pointed toward 6-76.
Mindful of this, Coach Dick Motta hyped their home date last week against Minnesota on the theory they had to beat some one.
Said Motta: “I told the guys that in my two years here, this is the most important game we’ve played.”
The Kings fell, 89-80. Maybe it was too much pressure.
Add Kings: Do you think it made them feel any better to see Pervis Ellison get 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Washington Bullets last week against the Chicago Bulls?
The Kings made the mistake of overrating Ellison--thanks, Bill Russell--and could prove to have compounded it by giving up on him precipitously.
They got Bob Hansen, Eric Leckner and yet-to-play rookie Anthony Bonner for him.
They’re baaaack: Every season, everyone writes off Milwaukee. Every season, the Bucks jump off to a good start. Every season, no one can explain what’s happening, other than noting that Del Harris must be a great coach.
However, take a look at the Buck backcourt:
--Jay Humphries is averaging 15 points a game, shooting 49%.
--Alvin Robertson is averaging 16 points and 5.2 steals, No. 1 in the NBA and more than two steals a game ahead of anyone else. He started the week one rebound behind team leader Jack Sikma and one assist behind team leader Humphries.
--Ricky Pierce is averaging a team-high 23.1 points as a substitute.
Washington’s Wes Unseld calls it “the best guard trio in the league.”
Says Pierce: “If we were in New York or somewhere, we’d probably be known as the best guards who ever played.”
Versace on a hot tin roof: Indiana Pacers Coach Dick Versace is said to be in trouble, but it hasn’t slowed his quick-draw delivery. Said Versace: “I love the edge. I like to win and I’m going to win. I always win. I’m like a cat you drop off the roof upside down and it lands on his feet. I always have and I always will.” Translation: he thinks Chuck Daly will give him his old assistant’s job back with the Detroit Pistons. . . . Add Pacers: Rick Smits, supposedly primed for a big season after working with Bill Walton last summer, is shooting 40%. Versace said Smits is suffering from “cognitive overload.”
The leader in the clubhouse in the “worst excuse to hide a player on the injured list” competition: Detroit says Mark Hughes has “minor curvature of the spine.” . . . The Charlotte Hornets are 17-18 in their last 35 games, going back to last season. “They may not have a legitimate center,” Miami Heat Coach Ron Rothstein said, “but not everyone has two power forwards (Armon Gilliam and J.R. Reid) like they have. Do they want everything in Year 3?” . . . Rothstein is splitting point-guard minutes between last season’s find, Sherman Douglas, and rookie Bimbo Coles, whom Rothstein rates a better defender. Douglas, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, said he doesn’t like it. . . . The New York Knicks are 2-5 at Madison Square Garden. Last season, they didn’t lose their fifth game at home until March.
Paul Westhead update: Attendance is dropping in Denver, ominous because his system was supposed to provide diverting entertainment. The Nuggets already have had three crowds among their seven lowest all-time. . . . Said Westhead: “Hey, I know we’re on a tightrope. We can succeed and we can fail. I know exactly what leads to tension in the tightrope. In this system, you need the entire team to play full-blast every minute of every game.”
Charles Barkley update: The Philadelphia 76ers’ forward apologized for joking about wife-beating. He was called to NBA headquarters to discuss his repeated exchanges with courtside customers around the league, who have learned just how candid Barkley can be. . . . Chicago rookie Scott Williams barely made the team but is taking minutes from Stacey (Moby) King, who is still heavy and having almost as many shots blocked as he makes. . . . Piston Dennis Rodman’s line of the month: 29 minutes, 13 rebounds, no shots taken from the floor or foul line. . . . Good news for Bad Boys’ fans: Detroit’s 13-2 start is best in team history. . . . Red Auerbach, who knows skullduggery when he sees it, on all those Atlanta Hawks slipping on the wet Boston Garden floor in the game called with the Celtics ahead, 37-22: “When you’re 15 down, it’s very easy to slip.” . . . Denver rookie Terry Mills has an incentive clause for weighing 240 pounds. Early line: he’ll never see a penny of it.