Patient Wilkins Brothers Wait for Chance to Help Magic
Dominique Wilkins could always get his shot.
One time he may pull up for a 15-foot jumper, the next he might drive the lane to score or get fouled. And, yes, he still has the legs for an occasional dunk.
He may no longer be the “Human Highlight Film,” but that’s of little concern to the nine-time All-Star. At 39, he’s back in the NBA and doing something for the first time.
When Wilkins signed a two-year contract with the Orlando Magic this month, the league’s eighth all-time leading scorer was united with younger brother Gerald, who also has had a long, productive career.
There have been 21 sets of brothers to play in the NBA, but only six combinations have wound up on the same team at the same time. What has made it especially satisfying for Dominique and Gerald is they had never played together before, even as youngsters on the playground.
“It’s still hard to imagine we’re on the same team,” Gerald, four years younger than his more-famous sibling, said. “We haven’t gotten much time on the floor together. But just having both of us here has been heaven sent to me.”
Despite a career scoring average of better than 25 points per game, Dominique has played a limited role for Orlando, which signed him on the day of the season opener and has been unable to work him into more games because of a lack of practice time.
Gerald, a 14th-year pro in his third season with the Magic, has played even less. He appeared in just two games with Dominique before being placed on the injured list last week.
Both expect their playing time to increase as the lockout-shortened season progresses, especially if injuries force coach Chuck Daly to tinker with the lineup.
“It’s always frustrating when you’re used to playing a lot,” Dominique said. “But at the same time, I’m glad to be back into it. Like they say, ‘patience is a virtue.’ I’m patient.”
The Magic weren’t alone in pursuing Dominique, who played in Italy last year. He averaged a little more than 18 points and six rebounds per game for the San Antonio Spurs two years ago and had discussions with the Charlotte Hornets before signing with Orlando.
Any questions about whether he can still be productive were answered in a recent game against Houston. In a little more than three minutes, he scored a season-high nine points to help close out a rout of the Rockets.
“I was glad to see that. . . . He’s a terrific offensive player,” Daly said, reiterating how difficult it has been to work Dominique into the lineup because the revised game schedule doesn’t leave much time for practice.
Dominique has been working out on his own, trying to get into as good a shape as he can without playing regularly. He’s been limited to appearances in lopsided games, but it’s difficult to find fault with Daly’s substitution pattern because Orlando has gotten off to a surprisingly strong start.
“Right now we’re winning games. There’s no need to change the ways things are being done,” Dominique said. “But with this type of season, you’ve got to be ready. We’re playing all these game close together and we’re going to need all our guys.”
In the meantime, he and Gerald are going to enjoy one another. The only other brother combinations to share the same experience were Caldwell and Charles Jones (Bulls), Caldwell and Major Jones (Rockets), Al and Dick McGuire (Knicks), Mark and Brent Price (Bullets) and Tom and Dick Van Arsdale (Suns).
“I know where I am in my career, and I think ‘Nique knows where he’s at in his career,” Gerald said. “It’s been great. Basically he wanted to get back on a good team that can contend. And he’s on that.”
Dominique spent the first 11-plus years of his career with Atlanta, the team he thought would also draft Gerald in 1985. But the Hawks selected Lorenzo Charles No. 46 overall, one spot before the Knicks took Gerald.
That was as close as the brothers would come to playing on the same team until this year. Dominique is still surprised that Gerald wound up with a career in basketball.
“He was always doing other things. Basketball was the farthest thing from his mind. All of a sudden, here he comes. The first time I saw him play I think was his second or third year of high school,” Dominique said.
Gerald laughs when he recalls those days. He was such a late bloomer that he wasn’t recruited by any major schools and wound up at Moberly Junior College before moving on to Tennessee-Chattanooga.
As nice as it would have been to play with Dominique at the height of his career, Gerald is glad the Hawks didn’t draft him.
“The funny thing about my career is I’ve always been at the right place at the right time,” Gerald said. “If I had gone to the Hawks, who knows what might have happened. With the Knicks I became my own man, my own player--not Dominique’s little brother. In Atlanta, I would have been Dominique’s little brother a lot.”
When Gerald learned the Magic were in the market for a small forward when the lockout ended, he pitched the idea of bringing Dominique in. Orlando assistant coach Tree Rollins, a former teammate of Dominique’s in Atlanta, also helped recruit his friend.
Family and friendship prevailed, with Dominique accepting a contract calling for the NBA minimum salary for veterans, $1 million. One of Gerald’s first act’s was to give up jersey No. 21--the number Dominique has worn throughout his career.
“I’m still the oldest,” Dominique said. “He really didn’t have a choice.”