CLYDE IN OVERGLIDE
For seven consecutive years, from 1988 to '94, Trail Blazers
guard Clyde Drexler was a fixture at the NBA All-Star Game. Last
season, however, with Portland in transition and his own future
in limbo, Drexler was not included among the league's elite.
After much deliberation, he did the logical thing.
"I went to Disney World," Drexler says.
Before he journeyed to the Magic Kingdom, Drexler publicly
requested a trade from the only pro team he'd ever played for.
He said he wasn't comfortable with the direction in which the
Blazers were headed; management whispered what really irked
Drexler was that it wouldn't extend his contract beyond the
February 12, 1996
Was Drexler a polished veteran with several good years left, as
he contended? Or was he, as the Blazers insinuated, the next
Dominique Wilkins, an aging star whose considerable athletic
skills had vanished? Drexler's numbers last season did not
support the latter theory. In 41 games for the Blazers he
averaged 22.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists. His shooting
was off, at 42.8%, but he argued that was because Portland had
been gutted, thus allowing defenses to focus more than ever on
This weekend Drexler will arrive in San Antonio as a 1996
All-Star starter, voted in by the fans. He comes as a member of
the Rockets, who traded for him last Valentine's Day, with the
championship ring that he won with his new club last June.
Drexler also comes armed with numbers that, through Sunday, were
similar to the ones that weren't good enough to secure a '95
All-Star spot: 19.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. "I'm
doing the same things," says Drexler. "The difference is I'm in
a happy situation where I have a chance to win."
Drexler says he asked for a trade before the 1994-95 season, as
he watched the dismantling of the Blazers, who in 1990 and '92
had gone to the NBA Finals--and lost. "The attitude changed," he
says. "[Owner] Paul Allen used to talk to me about everything.
Then, when things started coming down, I never heard from him.
But I have no gripes. He's a busy man."
While most teams tried to determine what Drexler had left in the
tank, Houston, mired in a postchampionship funk, concentrated on
other matters. As Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich pored over
Portland game films, two things stood out: Drexler's ability to
post up shooting guards, a capability the Rockets were lacking,
and his adeptness at passing out of double teams. Drexler's
friendship with center Hakeem Olajuwon, his teammate at the
University of Houston, was a plus, but that wasn't the clincher.
"I knew Clyde had been there and come up empty," says
Tomjanovich. "I knew he'd do anything to get a ring."
Drexler averaged 20.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and shot
48.1% from the field in the playoffs during the Rockets' second
title run. At 33 he says he was poised to retire, but Rockets
owner Les Alexander offered him a two-year extension. "So much
for money being an issue," says Drexler. "It was never about
that. It's too bad Portland chose to make it that way."
THE BUZZ IS BACK
The Beehive is buzzing again in Charlotte, thanks to recently
acquired point guard Kenny Anderson, who has fans coming out in
swarms. Although the Hornets had been announcing sellouts, the
alarming number of no-shows since the Nov. 3 trade of Alonzo
Mourning had so concerned owner George Shinn that he installed
scanners that read bar codes on the tickets to determine who was
and who wasn't showing up. Shinn hopes Anderson can replace
Mourning as Charlotte's main draw, although it's unrealistic to
expect a 6'1" point guard to have the same impact as a 6'10"
Hornets fans still stinging from the loss of Mourning have made
it clear they want Shinn to sign Anderson. That could be a tall
order, particularly since Shinn will be sitting across the
negotiating table from David Falk, who also represents Mourning.
While Shinn says he's not to the point at which he can't talk to
the man, there is still bitterness with how Falk--and
Mourning--handled Charlotte. "I always believed if you paid
people well, and hugged and kissed them, and showed them loyalty
and good money, that was more important than just money," says
Shinn. "David Robinson [six years, $66 million with the Spurs]
signed for less than what we offered 'Zo. Apparently David
Robinson has some loyalty to his team, rather than only being
concerned with himself."
How much loyalty can Shinn expect from Anderson, who in his
first six games as a Hornet (Charlotte was 3-3) averaged 15.7
points and 10.8 assists? His mother said last week that Anderson
will not stay in Charlotte; Kenny remains noncommittal. "I'm not
even thinking about a contract," he says. "I already know my
teams. They're out there, and they want me. [The Blazers, if
they can move Rod Strickland, might be among the interested.]
I'm in the driver's seat, and if I keep putting up these kinds
of numbers, I'll be driving an 18-wheeler."
LINE OF THE WEEK
Bulls forward Dennis Rodman, Feb. 2, versus the Lakers: 39 MIN,
5-7 FG, 0-0 FT, 23 rebounds, 3 assists, 10 points. The beautiful
people went to see the Magic Johnson-Michael Jordan reunion, but
the Worm wiggled into the spotlight. Rodman got nine rebounds in
the first quarter alone and set the tone for a routine 99-84
Bulls win. Hey, you bonehead coaches still think this guy
doesn't belong on the All-Star team?
Celtics forward Dino Radja was not named to the All-Star team,
despite averaging 20.3 points and 10.1 rebounds through Sunday.
Radja, who was undoubtedly penalized for two things--big numbers
on a bad team and suspect defense--probably had more at stake
than any other player when the selections were announced. If he
had made the squad, he would have received a $500,000 bonus and
would have had $500,000 added to his salary in each of the years
left on his contract, which runs through the 1999-2000 season.
He also could have exercised an escape clause following the
Radja has repeatedly suggested that bias against European
players on the part of both NBA fans, who elect the All-Star
starters, and coaches, who pick the reserves, has hurt him.
Someone should remind him that Detlef Schrempf was selected in
1993, when he was a Pacer, and last year, as a member of the
Perhaps Radja should expand the scope of his conspiracy theory.
In a recent poll of European coaches, players, referees and
writers, Radja ranked sixth behind such players as Arvidas
Sabonis, Sasha Danilovic and Toni Kukoc.
AROUND THE RIM
Knicks center Patrick Ewing, who spearheaded the Jan. 24 ouster
of the players' association executive director Simon Gourdine,
hints that more changes might be on the way. Asked if he and
other antiunion players would attempt to remove members of the
association's executive committee, which includes Ewing's New
York teammate Charles Smith, Ewing replied, "You never know.
Some are pushing for that."... Swap of the Week, Part One:
Timberwolves forward Tom Gugliotta for ... Bullets forward Juwan
Howard? Washington general manager John Nash informed Minnesota
vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale that he
would do almost anything to get Gugliotta back in a Bullets
uniform. Except, of course, trade Chris Webber. Howard, who's
probably a better player than Gugliotta, would be a risky
acquisition because, as a free-agent-to-be, he can walk at the
end of the season.... Swap of the Week, Part Two: John Salley
for nobody! The Raptors tried unsuccessfully to deal Salley, who
was racking up DNPs, coach's decision. They finally bought him
out last week for about $4 million.