To correct such injustices, Golden State coach Don Nelson advocates two All-Star games, one for each conference. A more realistic hope for players like Porter is that the rosters will be expanded. After all, major league baseball invites 28 players from each league to its All-Star Game, while NFL Pro Bowl rosters feature 42 players each.
HOPE FOR VISA PROBLEMS
Congratulations and bonne chance to coach Mike Dunleavy and his Lakers, who have been selected to participate in the 1991 McDonald's Open, in Paris. The last three NBA coaches who made the trip abroad for this preseason tournament were the Celtics' Jimmy Rodgers, the Nuggets' Doug Moe and the Knicks' Stu Jackson. All were subsequently fired.
Take a moment, if you will, to raise a glass to the following NBA players—former NBA players, that is: Pat Cummings, Jazz; T.R. Dunn, Nuggets; Jim Farmer, Sixers; Avery Johnson, Nuggets; Pete Myers, Spurs; Kelvin Upshaw, Mavericks; Reggie Williams, Spurs; Leon Wood, Kings; Mike Woodson, Cavaliers; and Howard Wright, Magic. All were waived by Dec. 24, the 55th day of the NBA season.
Any player on a roster after 55 days must be paid for the entire season, even if he is later waived. So it has become the custom for some teams to set high-priced bench players adrift before their full financial commitments kick in and to replace them with lesser lights. Everybody is aware of the system, but that didn't make it a more joyous holiday for the castoffs, particularly old pros such as Cummings, Dunn and Woodson. Celtic forward Dave Popson was more fortunate. He was waived so that swingman Derrick Smith could be added to the roster, but after Smith was placed on the injured list on Dec. 27, Popson was signed for the duration of the season.
Each season the 55th day falls around Christmas, and even a superstar like Philadelphia's Charles Barkley, who is never likely to be in such a situation, thinks this is heartless. "We should redo the date for guaranteeing contracts," says Barkley. "You can't cut guys on Christmas. We should make the date the beginning of the calendar year."
Some of those waived this Christmas will probably be signed as 10-day players, but, as of last weekend, only Upshaw was back as a temp, with Dallas. And when Fat Lever comes off the injured list, Upshaw will probably have to hit the road again.
WHITHER DALE ELLIS?
It seemed as though the Sonics had stolen Dale Ellis from the Mavericks when, in July 1986, Seattle picked him up in exchange for a washed-up Al Wood. Now, one has to wonder. True, Ellis is a classic NBA two-guard, a player who can both post up an opponent and bust him from three-point range. But a pattern of off-the-court misadventures—drunk driving charges, well-publicized marital difficulties and clashes with teammates, including a fistfight with forward Xavier McDaniel on Nov. 21—have severely undercut his value around the league. When, in an effort to improve team chemistry, the Sonics traded McDaniel to the Suns last month, many observers wondered if Seattle had really wanted to deal Ellis but couldn't find any takers in a league wan' of his reputation.
Well, it's not quite that simple. For one thing, the Sonics were disenchanted with McDaniel's offense. Remember when the Pistons unloaded Adrian Dantley midway through the 1988-89 season, even though Dantley had excellent numbers? The move was made because AD's penchant for holding the ball had thrown his teammates off their game. McDaniel's style is similar to Dantley's; Ellis, by contrast, takes only what the offense gives him and doesn't force much.