Terry Teagle hit town Tuesday night.
He has been here for three months, or someone borrowing his body has, but the lethal weapon that Jerry West traded a No. 1 pick for?
No one saw that incarnation in purple and gold until Tuesday when Teagle made his first nine shots and scored 27 points in 20 minutes in a textbook rout of the Charlotte Hornets, 128-103, before a crowd of 16,858 at the Forum.
The Lakers, winners of four in a row and nine of their last 11, had an embarrassment of riches and the Hornets had an embarrassment, period. Vlade Divac followed his 22-point, 11-rebound game against Houston with 19 and 12 in 28 minutes. The Lakers shot 59.5%, and none of their hard-pressed regulars had to work more than 28 minutes.
Teagle had one of those nights the Lakers had envisioned--out of experience. As a Warrior, he hit them with a 35-pointer last season.
As a Laker, he was shooting 38%, and West was scanning NBA rosters for shooting guards until the thaw began four games ago. Teagle made 14 of 25 shots in the three games before this one and then . . .
“He’s been playing better,” Laker Coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Tonight he was unconscious.”
For Teagle, quiet, conscientious, looking for three months as if he was carrying the world on his shoulders, everything has been an adjustment. He enters games later, stays in fewer minutes, and takes fewer shots in a more structured offense.
“It was hard,” Teagle said. " . . . It was something I had to adjust to. This is a veteran club. It’s not up to them to adjust to me. I had to adjust to them.”
Teagle has consistently denied he was pressing.
To everyone around him, he seemed to be pressing.
“Early, I think he was trying too hard,” James Worthy said. “I think he wanted to prove himself. That was something he didn’t have to do. He’s already proven himself.”
Then came Tuesday night.
As if to illustrate this mismatch, the Hornets started the night with 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues facing the Laker backcourt of 6-9 Magic Johnson, 6-4 Byron Scott and 6-5 Teagle.
What’s a tyke to do?
“Oh man,” said Bogues before the game. “Just go out there and play.”
Oh man, was right.
The Hornets hung in . . . until mid-first quarter when they had a 16-15 lead. But the Lakers scored 10 consecutive points, of which Johnson had four plus two assists. The Lakers led, 29-17, at the end of the first quarter, then went wild in the second when Teagle scored 14 points in 5:47. By halftime, it was 70-39, and even rookie Elden Campbell had put in three minutes.
The second half was a formality.
This might not have been the real Teagle, but the Lakers liked it.
“It would be tough for him to be better than tonight,” Dunleavy said. “Somewhere in between would be just fine.”
Said Johnson: “Now he’s more comfortable. He’s letting the game come to him.”
Letting it come to him? The man who favors the 18-foot, high-arching turnaround jumper with a defender in his jersey?
“He doesn’t like to shoot open,” Johnson said. “He misses those. He wants the ones with you hanging on him. He’s like Vinnie (Johnson). He wants you all over him.”
Tuesday, Teagle got all over the Hornets, and West’s list of telephone calls to make got shorter.
In the night’s most significant substitution, rookie Tony Smith took Larry Drew’s place and came in for Magic Johnson to start the second quarter. Does Smith have the job? “Depends,” said Mike Dunleavy. . . . The Lakers then built a 12-point lead up to 22, so look for Smith to keep the promotion. . . . Dunleavy told Drew of the situation before the game and the veteran accepted it well. “I have no problem with it,” Drew said.
Vlade Divac, who went six weeks without posting back-to-back, double-figure games in rebounding, now has three in a row and five in seven games. . . . Elden Campbell, the Lakers’ No. 1 pick and a crowd favorite, fouled out after 14 minutes of playing time. He also scored 11 points. Said Dunleavy: “He did some good things. He changed some (Hornet) shots. Overall, I thought he did a good job.”
Hornet Coach Gene Littles: “We learned some things tonight. Next time around, it could be a better game. Not to say we will win it.” . . . The Lakers missed handing the Hornets their worst defeat. That was a 40-point loss to the Cavaliers--in Charlotte’s NBA debut.