Johnson was traded to Phoenix that spring for Paul Westphal, and after he was gone Wilkens described DJ as "a cancer" on the team. It was just the first in what was to become a long series of disastrous personnel moves that dismantled Seattle's championship team, the last of which was the trade that sent Sikma to Milwaukee.
The Bucks weren't scheduled to play their home opener against Boston until this week, but Sikma was so anxious to get off to a good start that he showed up in Milwaukee five weeks ago to participate in the Bucks' "jump training" sessions. These are conditioning drills based on an East German technique called plyometrics, designed specifically to improve jumping skills. Curiously, it appeared that the only players with plyometric deficiencies were, like Sikma, of the Caucasian persuasion. "White guys' camp," Sikma huffs. "Now I'll be able to jump over two phone books instead of one."
Sikma missed the All-Star Game last season for the first time in seven years, a consecutive-appearance streak equaled during his career only by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, George Gervin and Larry Bird. He hopes the trade will help motivate him again.
"You've got to shake the tree sometimes," Sikma says. "Maybe I did get too comfortable in Seattle. I was always known for my slow starts, but a lot of times there was a reason for that. Early in the season we always had a couple guys who were trying to catch the coach's eye. Given a choice between putting up a 20-footer and passing it inside, they'd let it fly, so I would just save myself for later, when it counted. Then, after everyone had taken a shot at being the star and we were still losing, they'd eventually come back to Old Faithful."
Nelson is hoping Sikma will be that dependable while splitting his time at center and power forward, so that the Bucks can play the 7'3" Randy Breuer in the middle and 6'9" Terry Cummings at small forward. "I've tried to win with a small team for a few years now and couldn't do it," says Nelson. "L.A. tried last year and couldn't do it. For us to compete with the other good teams, we have got to be comfortable with our big lineup in there."
Sikma might just be the big man who makes the Bucks bigger than real life itself.