Scottie Pippen wasn't the only NBAer who struggled to find his
stroke on the opening weekend. To cite just a few examples: In
their first two games, Sonics All-Star forward Vin Baker hit
only 13 of 33 shots, Lakers All-Star guard Eddie Jones went 3 of
22 from the floor, and 76ers guard Allen Iverson connected on
just 9 of his 35 attempts. The Knicks, meanwhile, turned the
ball over 10 times in the second quarter last Friday in a 93-85
loss to the Magic.

With players having only two weeks to get into game shape,
injuries were inevitable. The sound of hamstrings popping could
be heard from New Jersey (forward Chris Gatling) to Vancouver
(guard Doug West), while other players went down with a medley
of ailments including twisted knees (Celtics guard Ron Mercer
for one), sprained ankles (Nets guard Sam Cassell) and, of
course, the dreaded plantar fasciitis (Kings forward Lawrence

Then there's the matter of each team's having to cram 50 games
into a stretch of 90 days. The Hawks, playing their third game
in as many nights, shot a horrid 29.5% in a 79-69 loss to the
Nets on Sunday, making only one field goal in the second
quarter--and that with five seconds to play. Three shows in
three nights might be O.K. for Wayne Newton, but for a pro
basketball team?

With every game counting more, though, the intensity in each was
ratcheted up. Thus fans were treated to the sight of New Jersey
center Jayson Williams rising off the floor after having his
nose broken by a stray Dikembe Mutombo elbow, wiping away the
blood and sinking both foul shots in a 111-106 defeat last
Saturday in Atlanta; and to the sight of Timberwolves forward
Kevin Garnett bellowing, "No quitting! No quitting!" to his
teammates last Friday in the final minutes of a 96-82 drubbing
by the Spurs.

During the season's first three days, fans evinced mild annoyance
over the league's six-month lockout. Through the first 28 games
the average paid attendance was a respectable 17,492, but only 10
of 20 teams sold out their home openers (17 of 29 did last
season). The sad-sack Clippers opened in Los Angeles last
Saturday against the Bulls. In years past a date with Chicago was
a guaranteed sellout; against the Jordan-less Bulls, however, the
Clippers drew 6,118--and lost to Chicago for the seventh straight
time. Looks as if at least one team hasn't missed a beat.

--Marty Burns