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THE NBA
Jack McCallum
February 18, 1991
Thanks, Charles
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February 18, 1991

The Nba

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One unfortunate aspect of all this was the treatment of the Sixers' guard Hersey Hawkins, who was added to the East team by Stern after Bird was excused. Hawkins's worthiness to be an All-Star player was openly questioned, particularly in Detroit, where it was thought the Pistons' forward Dennis Rodman deserved Bird's spot.

"It's a dark day in the NBA for effort, enthusiasm, talent and hard work," said Piston general manager Jack McCloskey, thereby inferring that Rodman had those qualities and Hawkins did not. To which Barkley replied, "If it's dark in Detroit, tell Jack McCloskey to turn on the lights."

As long as there are injuries and All-Star Games, the dilemma of who can be excused and who cannot will remain. But the league should make every effort to find out as quickly as possible whether a starter intends to bow out, if only to minimize the pressure on his replacement. And superstars who are healthy enough to play should do so without question.

To his credit, Barkley certainly did not take the weekend off. He scored 17 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in 35 hard-played minutes in the East's 116-114 victory, and as he left the Coliseum on Sunday afternoon, no one was happier to be in Charlotte than Sir Charles.

That's Cold, Man
Michael Jordan emerged from a locker room with the Hornets' Muggsy Bogues in tow before last Saturday's All-Star Stay in School JAM. "Listen," Jordan asked a crowd of onlookers as he put his hand on the head of the 5'3" Bogues, "did anyone lose their child?"

Trouble's Lightning Rod

The debate over which young Knick point guard was the better player—Rod Strickland or Mark Jackson—seems almost silly-now, doesn't it? After Strickland was traded to San Antonio on Feb. 21, 1990, Jackson got the Knick job by default and promptly fell on his face. Out in the Alamo City, meanwhile, Hot Rod flourished and helped the Spurs reach the semifinals of the Western Conference playoffs. But one gnawing doubt about Strickland remains: Is he too unpredictable, both on the court and off it, to be a real asset to a team?

It was Strickland who, in Game 7 of the Spurs' semifinal series with the Trail Blazers last season, unwisely threw a blind, over-the-head pass that ended San Antonio's chances for victory. Yes, it was only one play in a long season of relative success, but it crystallized what many observers consider to be the essence of Strickland's quarterbacking—he can take your offense places, but not always where it wants to go.

To his credit, Strickland was having a fine season for the first three months of 1990-91. But early on Feb. 2 he was involved in a scuffle at a San Antonio nightclub and broke a bone in his right hand. He is expected to be out for at least the next six weeks, possibly eight, which is a major blow to the title hopes of the Spurs, who now hope to squeak by at point guard by using journeyman Avery Johnson, CBA stalwart Clifford Lett and swingman Paul Pressey.

"You can get by in the short run with a substitute at the point," says All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson of the Suns, one of the teams that would benefit most from a San Antonio slump, "but not for any extended period of time. The Spurs play with a lot of confidence—a lot of it, naturally, because they have David Robinson, but a lot of it because of Strickland, too. They're just not the same team without him." Said Robinson, who took the injury hard, "What we'll miss is that ability Rod had to take over the game in the final minutes. You can't ask someone to come in as a reserve and do that."

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