Waiting for a Ferry
After being picked second in the 1989 draft by the Clippers; after playing a season in Italy in order to force L.A. to unload him; after being acquired by the Cavaliers, who swapped guard Ron Harper, two first-round draft choices and a second-rounder to get him; and after signing a deal with the Cavs potentially worth, with incentives, $34 million over 10 years, Danny Fern' entered his rookie year saddled with great expectations. Thus far, the 6'10" Ferry has labored under those expectations, averaging 8.6 points (on 44.7% shooting) and 3.0 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. He has often appeared a step slow, indecisive on offense and prone to fouls on defense.
"I think it's been real tough for Danny," says Celtics guard Brian Shaw, who was Ferry's teammate on Il Messaggero Roma last season. "Over in Italy, he was being compared to me, and I had already played one year in the NBA. Now he's back here, and everyone forgets he's a rookie. He was compared to Larry Bird when he first came into the league. I can tell you from playing in Boston, those are really big shoes to fill."
Few people in the NBA are ready to write Ferry off, though few are sure he's worth his high price tag, either. "I think he's improved some," says Indiana coach Bob Hill. "[But] he's going to constantly play under the shadow of all that money, and I don't know if he'll ever live up to it." Adds Atlanta assistant coach Kevin Loughery, "Danny is one of those kids who is very critical of himself, and that's hurt his confidence sometimes. I really thought he would be an outstanding player in this league; I thought he would be big time. Now, it may not happen because confidence can be destroyed very easily in the NBA."
Because he had been dividing his time among all three frontcourt positions, Ferry had trouble getting one role down pat, although he has been playing mostly at power forward recently. He has also been bothered by tendinitis in the left knee. The Cavalier coaching staff has broken down reels of film for him to study, and Ferry says his teammates have been extremely encouraging, even if the Cleveland fans have not been. "I think I'm starting to understand the game—where I can get my shot, how to read the offenses, the opportunities off the double team, the defensive rotations," Ferry says. "But it's been a roller coaster. I'll have a stretch of good games, then some bad games. It's been a year of small steps for me. This summer I'll know what I need to work on so I can make a big step next year."
Some selected reviews by the Bulls of books that coach Phil Jackson gave them to read—John Paxson on Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: "Real complicated"; Michael Jordan on Fever by John Edgar Wideman: "Real weird"; Bill Cartwright on The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe: "Real long."
Don't tell Doug Moe that retirement is all that bad. Moe, who was fired by the Nuggets on Sept. 6 after 10 seasons as the team's coach, says, "I'm doing what I do best—nothing."
Moe has a contract settlement that pays him about $200,000 a year for the next 10 years, plus a new Cadillac each of the next three years and $10,000 annually for country club fees. He says it will take a huge offer—"about a million a year"—to lure him back as a head coach.
First, a comeback would mean he would have to fly again, which he dreads. Second, a return would interrupt his childhood dream. "The day I got fired, I thought of spring training," he says. An ardent baseball fan, Moe arrived in Phoenix last week with some grandiose plans to go to a different spring training camp each day. When told that a lot of baseball fans probably envy him, Moe said, "Hell, I envy me."
TV, or not TV?
Commissioner David Stern has long believed that when it comes to television, less is more. When there's a glut of televised games, it's harder to draw audiences and advertising dollars, particularly on network telecasts—a lesson learned painfully last summer by Major League Baseball and CBS. This partly explains why Stern last week had league attorneys file an appeal with the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago of a decision the NBA lost Jan. 24 to superstation WGN.
Until last April, the league-imposed maximum for games allowed to be shown on the superstations—WGN in Chicago, WTBS in Atlanta and WOR in New Jersey—was 25 per season. At that time the NBA Board of Governors voted to lower the figure to 20 for 1990-91, and it was reported to be considering decreasing the number each year in five-game increments until the superstations have no games in '94-95. However, U.S. District Court Judge Hubert L. Will said that the reduction from 25 to 20 games was "a significant restraint of trade" and would "reduce availability and competition in hope of raising the price in the future."
The superstations were naturally delighted with Will's ruling, which would protect their right to telecast a significant number of games, and, they believe, stave off the possibility of copycat cutbacks by the NCAA and Major League Baseball. But the NBA fears that the decision would reduce the league's value to a network and damage the financial condition of weaker teams that depend on national TV revenues. League officials suggest that Will's ruling would further dilute the product by encouraging the development of additional superstations built around popular teams.
And how does all this affect the fan? Cutting out the superstations would leave viewers only two places to watch nationally televised games—NBC and TNT, which between them now show 72 regular-season games plus the playoffs. But that could change. One cable executive said last week that the NBA is close to going to pay-per-view. "To do that, you really have to have tight control of the product," the executive said. "David Stern runs the NBA with a very proprietary approach and with a firm hand." But Will's ruling has loosened Stern's grip, at least for now.
The H-O-R-S-E Powers
When George (Iceman) Gervin retired in 1986, he took with him not only four NBA scoring titles, but also an unofficial honor as well: Player Most Likely to Inflict an E in H-O-R-S-E, a game in which competitors must match each other's shots. "He could make more shots from behind the backboard than anyone I've ever seen," recalls Spur vice-president Bob Bass. "He'd sit down in the second row of scats and bank them in." But there were other H-O-R-S-E hotshots of yore, and Gervin particularly admired the late Pete Maravich, who used to spin the ball on one finger, toss it into the air and then head it into the basket. "Today guys play more jump-shot shooting games," says Gervin.
Still, top H-O-R-S-E players do exist in the NBA. Among the best are Houston guard Kenny Smith, whose repertoire includes over-the-head shots from behind the basket and from half-court while sitting down; Phoenix swingman Dan Majerle, who is deadly on 40-foot set shots from the bench; Boston reserve Michael Smith, who can hit bank shots off the 24-second clock; and Portland guard Danny Ainge, a manic player who once won a two-hour-long shooting duel with then Celtics teammate Sam Vincent when he made a shot standing on a chair behind press row in Milwaukee.
But the current H-O-R-S-E shoo-in is Chris Mullin of Golden State. "He's not going to make up as many shots as some other guys," says Warrior guard Kevin Pritchard. "But he's not going to miss anything you come up with, either."
The Bulls' Market
During timeouts at Chicago Stadium, hard rock blares while Benny the Bull and the Luvabulls frolic; during timeouts at Boston Garden, Ron Harry plays eclectic tunes on an organ. But for all their subtle differences, both old-time arenas house some of the most rabid fans in the league. Our poll this week set out to determine whose fans were more boisterous and therefore harder for opponents to take.
It was close. From the teams that responded, Chicago's fans got nine votes, Boston's eight. Said Indiana's Hill, giving his vote to the Bulls' rabble, "Chicago is louder. Boston gets loud, too, but its fans seem to be more sophisticated." Agrees Bass, "Chicago's got the noisiest fans of those two—the noisiest in the league." Bass adds, "In all these new arenas you just don't get that same noise."
One of those who voted for Boston, an Atlantic Division coach, drew this distinction: "The Boston fan is more rabid; the Chicago fan is more forgiving. The Chicago fan is almost the ideal fan; the Boston fan is more critical."