If Buechler was frustrated by his lack of playing time in Chicago, he at least had the privilege of playing for a champion. Winter says he always felt that Bulls coach Phil Jackson should have used Buechler more, but Jackson's dilemma was obvious: Carving out time for Buechler meant shaving minutes from either Jordan or Pippen.
Detroit has experienced no such difficulties. The Pistons envisioned Buechler as a hardworking role player who could knock down three-pointers and give them between 10 and 12 minutes a night. "But right away he surprised us with his athleticism and his defense," says coach Alvin Gentry. "The more I saw, the more I wanted him in there. He was a big-time find for us."
Clipper at a Crossroads
Olowokandi Not Giving Up Yet
When Michael Olowokandi was drafted first by the Los Angeles Clippers last year, he steadfastly refused to discuss his new employer's disastrous past. As the 1998-99 season inches mercifully to a close, the rookie center must now confront the past as well as the present and the future.
The grisly details include a year in which the Clippers could have set records for futility if the schedule had not been shortened by the lockout. Through Sunday, LA., which opened the season with 17 consecutive losses, had won only seven games. Now Olowokandi must consider what will be left next year of what is already a shell of a team. Forwards Rodney Rogers and Lorenzen Wright—both of whom will be free agents this summer—and veteran guard Pooh Richardson have made it clear they want out. Forward Maurice Taylor, the Clippers' first pick in the '97 draft, also could become a free agent after next season and opt to leave.
"I think Maurice will stay," Olowokandi said last week. "His attitude has always been positive. He gets upset when we lose. He cares what happens to our team."
That in itself is a novelty. Players who have been in Clippers purgatory for several seasons tend to become indifferent. Losing breeds losing, and too often in close games this season, veteran players who have seen their team blow it in the past have let it happen again. "I have to overcome whatever negativity surrounds the Clippers," Olowokandi says. "I don't dwell on last year or experiences that are specific to some of my teammates. If my experience turns out to be sour [too], then so be it."
Olowokandi, who had hoped to be Rookie of the Year, concedes that he didn't expect such modest personal statistics (averages of 9.1 points and 7.8 rebounds through Sunday) or such gruesome team results this season. With point guard Sherman Douglas finally healthy and contributing, Olowokandi's revised goals include finishing the year with a win total that reaches double digits.
A (Not So) Fine Line
Dale Davis, Pacers
April 16 versus Philadelphia: 28 minutes, 0 of 2 FG, 0 of 0 FT, 0 points, 3 rebounds. Forty-eight hours after Davis's 12 points, 16 boards and four blocks clinched a critical win for the Pacers over Orlando, he came up empty in a 93-83 loss to the Sixers, typifying the inconsistency of Indiana's roster this season.