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Very little it seems. Wilkins even has an outside chance at being the NBA's MVP. "He's better than before. Less flashy, but better," says Dallas veteran Alex English. "If Atlanta docs well, it's a possibility he could get the MVP. It just gets down to how his team does." And that is a tricky bit of business.
Last week the Hawks went 3-1 (which brought their record to 30-24), with Wilkins leading them in scoring in each game. The biggest win was a 111-102 home victory last Friday over the Los Angeles Lakers, a team Atlanta hadn't defeated at the Omni in five years. In that game Wilkins played at a fever pitch, finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and five assists.
The win over L.A. was Atlanta's 18th straight at home, a club record, which was then extended to 19 with the victory over Dallas last Saturday night. Overall, the Hawks were 21-6 at home. But on the road they were 9-18 and had dropped 11 of their last 13 games. "It's just confidence," says Wilkins. "The travel is a little part of it. But mostly we just need to feel the same on the road as we do at home, like we can win them all."
If anyone can instill that confidence in the Hawks, it's Weiss. A chrome-domed, easygoing former NBA guard whose aw-shucks look and deadly lefthanded jumper scorched many an opponent during his 12-year playing career, Weiss was just the tonic the rattled, bickering Hawk players needed. The 5'7" Fratello was a good teacher who pushed the Hawks to 50-win seasons from 1985-86 to 1988-89, but his accusatory, mc-against-you style ultimately destroyed his players' confidence. "Mike was great, until the game started," says Atlanta guard Doc Rivers.
It has been written that Fratello and Wilkins were mortal enemies at the end, but both men deny it. "I knew I was gone after the last regular-season game," says Fratello, now an analyst for NBC. "And I stopped Nique and said, 'I want to thank you for all that you've done.' And I meant it. I've said this many times: He's the cornerstone of that franchise. But to be fair, you can't make him into something he's not. Life isn't like that. My thing with Nique was, be thankful for what you've got."
But under Weiss, Wilkins is becoming something else, something superior to the old model. "Bobby never says anything negative to us," Wilkins says. "He played the game, so he knows how we feel, and he keeps us refreshed and relaxed. He tells us to take the three when it's there. He rests us when we need it. I didn't know basketball was this easy."
Weiss may not yell at his players, but he's no somnolent half-wit, either. When he came to the Hawks he had a less than reverent opinion of Wilkins as well as a plan for overcoming Wilkins's shortcomings. "My impression when I got here was that he was an athletic scorer," Weiss says. "I didn't consider him a superstar because he didn't make his teammates better.
"So we sat down and looked at a game film that had been edited just to show him in action, and he could see the things he was doing wrong. One of the things was 'leaking' downcourt on defense, leaving his man early because he wanted to get out on the break. We talked, and I knew that Dominique wanted to change. To be a superstar you have to do three things: You have to make your teammates better; you have to do the blue-collar things like rebounding and defense; and, of course, you have to have super talent. He's on his way."
When Wilkins occasionally forgets and plays like a headless horseman, Weiss calmly takes him out. "The way to get a player's attention is with playing time," Weiss says.
Which is fine with Wilkins. "I never believed in yelling at players," he says. "Bobby's the kind of guy you want to win games for."