January 29, 1996


On Nov. 30 the 76ers acquired Derrick Coleman, the immensely
talented yet exceedingly frustrating power forward who tormented
the Nets for five seasons by alternately showcasing his
considerable skills and his considerable petulance. Sixers
coach-general manager John Lucas, who has made a career of
trying to salvage the reputations of wayward ballplayers, was
convinced a change of scenery would turn Coleman around. "Don't
worry,'' Lucas told Philadelphia owner Harold Katz. "He'll be
different here."

Now, nearly two months later, Coleman hasn't challenged the
76ers' dress code, blown off team meetings or refused to enter a
game, all lowlights on his New Jersey resume. That's because
since the Nets traded him, along with Sean Higgins and Rex
Walters, for Shawn Bradley, Greg Graham and Tim Perry, Coleman
has suited up only six times.

On Dec. 9, just three days after whetting the appetites of his
new employers with 17 points and 11 rebounds in his Sixers
debut, a win over the Mavericks, Coleman landed awkwardly while
lunging for a rebound against the Celtics, spraining his right
ankle. Originally Coleman was expected to miss 10 days, but as
of Sunday he remained on the sidelines and the reeling Sixers
were 7-30.

The mercurial Katz has kept quiet in public. Yet privately, team
sources say, he has sought assurances that his new star isn't
dogging it. According to Lucas the injury is painfully real.
"The ankle would have been better off broken," says Lucas. "It's
so severely sprained it's going to take forever to be right." As
coach, Lucas may not have forever; last week the 76ers were
talking with former Celtics coach Chris Ford as a possible

Coleman tested the ankle against the Kings on Dec. 29 but
experienced considerable pain and did not play in the second
half. He tried again on Jan. 3, against the Warriors, with
similar results. Lucas then persuaded Coleman to see a foot
specialist. His ankle was placed in a cast on Jan. 10, and even
though the cast was removed a week later, Lucas vowed he would
not rush Coleman back into action. "We've tried him at 60
percent," Lucas says. "It's no good for him, and it's no good
for this team."

Though Lucas refuses to fault Coleman for his injury, he is
upset about his weight, which ballooned to as much as 280
pounds. Coleman has since made some dietary adjustments and,
according to Lucas, is down to 269 pounds. But after taking that
step forward, Coleman took another step back when he returned
last Thursday from a visit to his hometown, Detroit, 24 hours
later than Lucas had requested. Mark down Jan. 18 as the day
Coleman logged his first official fine with Philadelphia. Said
Lucas, "He's the leader of this team, and I expect him to act
that way."

There is also a new condition attached to Coleman's earning
minutes with the Sixers when--or, more ominously, if--he returns
this season. "I will not allow Derrick Coleman to go out there
again until his weight is down to 260,'' says Lucas. Does
Coleman know about this? "He will when he reads this article,"
Lucas answers.


When Butch Beard accepted the Nets' coaching job at the
beginning of last season, his starting lineup included Coleman
and then All-Star point guard Kenny Anderson. Now, after New
Jersey dealt Anderson and Gerald Glass to the Hornets for
Kendall Gill and Khalid Reeves last Friday, he has neither. (The
trade was put on hold Saturday after the Nets asked for more
medical tests on Reeves, who has been suffering from a sprained
ankle.) When asked if he would ever have guessed that both his
franchise players would be dealt in less than a two-month span,
a somber Beard answered, "I would have told you it would never

So what does Beard have now? Six guards and a starting center
(Bradley) with a delicate psyche. New Jersey management insisted
it had to trade Anderson--who had refused an offer of $40 million
over six years--or face losing him to free agency next summer and
getting nothing in return. But in this case, nothing actually
might have been preferable to the alternative. The reasoning:
With the best crop of free agents in NBA history about to become
available, the Nets would have had Anderson's $3.9 million to
spend if they had stood pat and watched Anderson walk away in


Results of fan voting for the NBA All-Star squads were scheduled
to be announced late this week, and unless there was some
last-minute ballot stuffing from some overzealous city (don't
laugh--it has happened), the starters were set as of last
weekend. Coaches will then vote to fill out the seven remaining
spots on the Eastern and Western Conference teams, choosing two
guards, two forwards, a center and two at-large players.

Here's one person's view of who should suit up in San Antonio's
Alamodome on Feb. 11.


Starters (voted by the fans)

G: Michael Jordan, Bulls
G: Anfernee Hardaway, Magic
F: Grant Hill, Pistons
F: Scottie Pippen, Bulls
C: Shaquille O'Neal, Magic

Reserves (voted by MacMullan)

G: Terrell Brandon, Cavaliers; Reggie Miller, Pacers
F: Vin Baker, Bucks; Larry Johnson, Hornets
C: Alonzo Mourning, Heat

At large: Patrick Ewing, C, Knicks; Dennis Rodman, F, Bulls

Toughest Omissions: Guard Derek Harper is having another
exemplary year for New York and is a sentimental favorite here,
but Brandon gets the nod for overcoming a fractured right tibia,
brilliantly replacing Cleveland legend Mark Price and leading
the talent-starved but unexpectedly successful Cavs at both ends
of the floor. Guard Nick Anderson and forward Dennis Scott have
been important to Orlando, but they cancel each other out.
Bullets forward Juwan Howard was difficult to overlook; Knicks
forward Anthony Mason was not, because of his me-first approach.
Hornets swingman Glen Rice and Bucks forward Glenn Robinson
received consideration, but this voter puts a premium on
defense, and those two come up short.


Starters (voted by the fans)

G: Clyde Drexler, Rockets
G: Jason Kidd, Mavericks
F: Charles Barkley, Suns
F: Shawn Kemp, SuperSonics
C: Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets

Reserves (voted by MacMullan)

G: Mitch Richmond, Kings; John Stockton, Jazz
F: Sean Elliott, Spurs; Karl Malone, Jazz
C: David Robinson, Spurs

At large: Dikembe Mutombo, C, Nuggets; Rod Strickland, G, Blazers

Toughest Omissions: Portland forward Clifford Robinson is having
another superb season, and I was about to put him alongside
Malone as my other West forward. But then I double-checked and
noticed that he was shooting 43.1%--too low for an All-Star
frontcourtman, even allowing for his numerous three-point
attempts. Besides, Elliott (49.1% shooting through Sunday) has
been an all-everything for San Antonio. Seattle guard Gary
Payton should be there somewhere, particularly because he's so
active defensively, but Strickland has been a better
distributor. Denver guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is having the best
season of his career, but should he take the at-large spot of
teammate Mutombo, the league's best shot blocker? No way.


Magic Johnson worked out with the Lakers last week, again
fueling speculation that he would be making a comeback. While
Los Angeles executive vice president Jerry West says Johnson
decided against a return, other Lakers sources say Magic
seriously considered rejoining his old team and may again
consider doing so before the season is out.

Count L.A. coach Del Harris among those who think a Johnson
comeback would be marvelous. This is the third time Harris has
been teased with a possible Magic return. When Harris was hired
in May 1994, the Lakers were hoping to have both Magic, who had
retired in '91 following his revelation that he was HIV
positive, and free agent Horace Grant draped in the purple and
gold. But Grant signed with the Magic, and Johnson's interest in
a comeback faded. During this past preseason Harris again
dreamed of Johnson as the NBA's most lethal sixth man, but again
Magic balked. "It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility
for him to do it," said Harris late last week. "He brings such
joy for the game to the court. And his body looks as solid as a


Rocket swingman Mario Elie, Jan. 17 against the Nuggets: 17 MIN,
5-5 FG, 0-0 FT, 13 points, three assists. Elie, who has been
invaluable to Houston this season, was in the midst of yet
another relatively quiet yet effective evening when he crashed
to the floor after being fouled by Jalen Rose on a fast-break
dunk. Elie broke a bone in his right wrist on the play and might
be out for as long as 12 weeks, a big blow to the defending
champion Rockets. After the game, Houston players questioned the
way Rose had bumped Elie from behind, though Rose insisted he
meant no harm. In the six previous games Elie (career average:
8.5 points) had averaged 16.0 points.


The Pacers have two key players, Miller and forward Antonio
Davis, who will become free agents this summer; a third, Dale
Davis, also a forward, intends to exercise an escape clause in
his contract. Miller is Indiana's top signing priority and
sources say he has been offered a five-year package that would
average close to $6.5 million a season, but he has not yet
accepted it. Dale Davis is in the second year of a five-year,
$22.5 million deal, but his agent, Steve Kauffman, says he'll
test the market anyway. The rugged Davis is not a scorer and his
rebounding numbers aren't gaudy, which make him a tricky sell.
"I'm not saying 29 teams understand what Dale is worth," says
Kauffman. "I'm sure they don't. But it only takes one." ...
Asked for a comment on former Nuggets coach Doug Moe, who will
coach him in the All-Star rookie game, Denver's Antonio McDyess
admitted he didn't know who Moe was and said, "Somebody told me
he curses a lot." This might be of concern to the 21-year-old
McDyess, who, upon learning he had been named to the rookie
squad, exclaimed, "Dang!"

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROCKY WIDNER Philly coach Lucas says that only when the Sixers see less of Coleman will fans see more of him. [Derrick Coleman] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROCKY WIDNER Miller would prefer to stay contractually up in the air rather than re-sign with the Pacers now. [Reggie Miller]
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