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Center: James Donaldson. Dallas Mavericks, 7'2", 280, Washington State, seventh year.
Career stats: 9.1 points. 7.12 rebounds, 1.51 blocked shots, 8.12 awkwardness quotient (10 being perfectly awkward).
This season: 10.3. 11.8. 1.56. 5.56.
In a trade that elicited many a yawn, the Mavs acquired Donaldson from the Los Angeles Clippers for Kurt Nimphius on Nov. 25. 1985. Well, the Western Conference is wide awake now because Donaldson's consistent play in the pivot has made this one of the most significant trades in recent years. The Mavericks have gone from being one of the NBA's jelly doughnut teams—sweet on the outside, squishy in the center—to one of the few clubs (the Lakers. Celtics, Rockets, Hawks and, possibly, Pistons) with a force in the middle and a chance to win the NBA title The no-longer-docile Donaldson even looks better out there on the floor which accounts for the dip in his AQ.
Fortunately Donaldson doesn't have to do it all for Dallas because, like most centers, he can't. The Mavs are more than happy with his scoring and positively ecstatic about his rebounding. The fact that he has inexplicably raised his career free throw percentage from .716 to .801 is gravy. Before most games, Donaldson and rookie power forward Roy Tarpley place a friendly wager on who will grab more rebounds. That never happened before in Big D. which has long been No D. "When you talk about our success." says Blackman. an All-Star guard, "you have to talk about James " And so we have choosing him as our big man over Utah's Mark Eaton and Seattle's Alton Lister.
Small forward: Rodney McCray, Houston Rockets, 6'7". 220. Louisville, fourth year.
Career stats: 11.9 points, 6.21 rebounds, 3.39 assists.
This season: 22.214.171.124.64.
McCray keeps his feelings under lock and key, holding them in place if they try to emerge, hiding them behind a persistent scowl. This season he has been playing under a terrible mental burden—his young daughter, Apryl, is suffering from brain cancer—but no one would know it by his performance.
A lot of people don't know about McCray's all-around game, either. It's tough to get sunlight when you're surrounded by Twin Towers, but McCray is a big-league rebounder, an excellent ball handler who frequently moves out to point forward, and one of the NBA's best finishers on the break—a thundering, ambidextrous long-jump dunk artist. If he ever ponders his own varied skills, McCray will discover that there's nothing in his game to scowl about.