INSIDE THE NBA HOT ROD AND HURLEY FINISH STRONG JOE SMITH'S WEAK SECOND-YEAR EFFORT A TRADE THAT HELPED NEITHER TEAM

April 20, 1997

THE RISE AND FALL

With the regular season ending this Sunday, the ballots for the
major awards are already in. But here are some nominations for
prizes that the NBA won't be handing out in the next few weeks.

Best Resurrection Award: A tie between Suns center John (Hot
Rod) Williams and Kings point guard Bobby Hurley. Down the
stretch, Williams and Hurley, each of whom has been injured in
an automobile accident, reversed plummeting career trajectories.
The 6'11" Williams finally appears to be recovered from the
injuries to his back, right leg and right wrist that have
plagued him since August 1995, when he was rear-ended while
sitting in his car at a red light. He has spent much of the time
since on the injured list--he missed 31 games--or playing in
pain. "There were times I couldn't jump, there was a time I
didn't think I'd get back," he says. "I couldn't get out of bed
without hurting. Now I feel better every day." It's no
coincidence that Phoenix, which lost its first 13 games this
season, began playing better at about the same time Williams,
its best low-post defender, began feeling better. Through Sunday
the Suns were 39-28 since his return, and Williams had averaged
11.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots in the last 10
games.

The 6-foot, 165-pound Hurley occasionally has been mistaken for
a ball boy, and he was getting about as much playing time as one
before Eddie Jordan replaced the fired Garry St. Jean as
Sacramento's coach on March 20. In 33 of the Kings' first 73
games, Hurley didn't play at all, and he averaged only 9.6
minutes in the 40 games in which he did appear. But on April 4
Jordan inserted him into the starting lineup and Hurley, who
made an agonizing comeback after almost being killed in a 1993
car crash, has reminded the Kings why they made him the seventh
pick of the '93 draft. Last Thursday against the Suns he had 14
assists, and the next night he had 11 more against the Warriors.
At week's end Hurley was averaging 28.6 minutes, 10.0 assists
and 6.8 points in those April starts.

It's possible the Kings are merely showcasing Hurley in hopes
that some team will take his contract off their hands--he will
make $3.5 million next season and $4 million in '98-99 in the
final year of his deal--but Jordan sounds sincerely impressed.
"There have been times I didn't think our other point guards
[Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Tyus Edney] had the attitude that Bobby
brings to the team," says Jordan. "That Jersey City attitude,
that toughness."

Sophomore Slump Award: Joe Smith, Warriors. It's not obvious
that Smith, the No. 1 pick of last season's draft, has slipped,
because at week's end his scoring and assist averages had
increased from last season's 15.3 and 1.0, respectively, to 18.9
and 1.5. But many close observers think that he has at least
stopped improving. One Golden State veteran even says, "He was a
better player when he got here than he is now." Says Smith,
"Sometimes I get so frustrated with myself that I want to take
myself out of the game. I know I'm better than that."

Some Warriors believe Smith has been spending too many late
hours with teammate Latrell Sprewell, but Smith denies he and
Sprewell are nighttime carousers. "We're usually at one of our
houses," he says. The still-slender (6'10", 225 pounds) Smith
believes that part of his problem may be that he abandoned his
weightlifting routine shortly after the season began because the
Warriors are using a health club in Oakland while the Oakland
Coliseum Arena is being renovated and a new practice facility is
being built. "Coming home from a road trip and then having to go
to a health club was just inconvenient," says Smith.

The If-Only-They-Showed-That-Much-Fight-in-Games Award: Vin
Baker and Acie Earl, Bucks. The Milwaukee forwards take the
prize for the teasing that escalated into a scuffle in the lobby
of a Portland hotel on April 4. It was an indication of how
divided the Bucks (31-47 at week's end) are. "The only time this
team has been together," says forward Armon Gilliam, "was for
the team picture."

The Coulda-Been-a-Contendah Award: The Pacers. One measure of
the decline of former Eastern Conference power Indiana (at
week's end 38-40 and two games out of a playoff spot with four
to play) is its record against .500-or-better teams. Last year
the mark was 24-21, this year it was 14-28 with all four
remaining games to go against such clubs. "We've had a lot of
games we've penciled in on the board as the most important games
of the season," coach Larry Brown says, "and I haven't seen one
W yet."

POST-TRADE FADE

The nine-player deal on Feb. 17 between the Mavericks and the
Nets produced a lot of headlines, but so far it hasn't produced
many wins. Through Sunday, Dallas was 7-24 and New Jersey was
9-19 since the trade, and lately each has had to endure the
dissatisfaction of one of its new players.

In the swap the Mavs sent forward-center Chris Gatling, guards
Sam Cassell and Jim Jackson, center Eric Montross and swingman
George McCloud (whom the Nets then dealt to the Lakers) to New
Jersey for center Shawn Bradley, guards Robert Pack and Khalid
Reeves, and forward Ed O'Bannon. The key player for Dallas, the
7'6" Bradley, was fairly impressive immediately after he joined
the Mavs, but lately his play--and his playing time--has
declined sharply. Coach Jim Cleamons, unhappy with Bradley's
penchant for silly fouls and his lack of discipline on defense,
has kept him on the bench for long second-half stretches. After
Bradley complained, albeit mildly, to the media, he and Cleamons
met and worked out their differences, but that doesn't change
the fact that Bradley is exhibiting the same pattern--a fast
start followed by erratic play--that caused first the 76ers and
then the Nets to give up on him.

New Jersey wasn't exactly pleased to hear Gatling, an Elizabeth,
N.J., native, say last week that he didn't want to return to the
Nets next season because he doesn't like playing so close to
home. "He told me when he came here, 'Coach, it's going to be
hard for me to play [in New Jersey],'" says John Calipari, the
Nets' coach. Calipari may not be overly concerned, because
Gatling has four years left on his five-year, $22 million
contract, but considering the Nets' history with players who
didn't want to be in New Jersey--Derrick Coleman and Kenny
Anderson among them--the last thing they need is another unhappy
camper.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Actually, they are the lines of the week: 76ers point guard
Allen Iverson, April 7 against the Bulls, 44 points; April 9
against the Hawks, 40 points; April 11 against the Bucks, 44
points; April 12 against the Cavaliers, 50 points. Iverson
became the first rookie in league history to score 40 or more
points in four consecutive games, and though Philadelphia lost
all four, Iverson also may have swayed some of the Rookie of the
Year voters to his side with all that scoring.

AROUND THE RIM

Frank Layden, the formerly rotund president of the Jazz, has
reduced his weight from 330 pounds to 185 in the past year.
Layden revamped his lifestyle after he saw 328-pound baseball
umpire John McSherry collapse and die on Opening Day last year.
"I was on a diet before he hit the ground," Layden says. Layden
now walks several miles each day, doesn't eat meat and has
decided that "pizza and Bud Lite are no longer a part of my
future." His waistline has gone from 62 inches to 40....All of
Portland's regulars have been pulled from the starting lineup at
least once this season for missing a practice or a shootaround.
The unofficial count: guard Isaiah Rider, four times; forwards
Rasheed Wallace and Cliff Robinson, twice each; and guard Kenny
Anderson and center Arvydas Sabonis, once each.

COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK A new coach gave Hurley a new life in Sacramento. [Bobby Hurley in game] COLOR PHOTO: BILL BAPTIST/NBA PHOTOS Smith's point production is up, but his game is down. [Joe Smith dunking basketball in game]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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