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BEATING THE DRAFT
As Golden State coach Don Nelson put it, this draft was deep but had a "lack of greatness" about it. Indeed, with no gifted naval officers or tongue-wagging slam-dunk artists or foreign-born franchise centers up for grabs, the teams that emerged as the clearest winners were two that remained quiet while the choices were being made: the Utah Jazz, which chose 7'1" Dartmouth center Walter Palmer with its lone pick (the 33rd overall), and the Dallas Mavericks, whose only selection (number 49 overall) was Duke guard Phil Henderson.
The Jazz and the Mavericks, two strong, veteran teams that needed to add a piece or two rather than remake the whole puzzle, wisely sacrificed youth for experience. Utah gave up two draft picks as part of a package to land two-time All-Star guard Jeff Malone of the Washington Bullets. Malone's one-dimensional style—he's a shooter but not much else—eventually proved to be a liability with the Bullets, but he suddenly looks downright formidable in a back-court with passing whiz John Stockton. Provided center Mark Eaton's precipitous decline can be reversed, the acquisition of Malone moves Utah a step closer to true title contention.
The Mavs sacrificed three first-round choices to land guard Fat Lever and forward Rodney McCray from the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings, respectively. Lever and McCray are players whose names are synonymous with versatility. If Dallas can now re-sign free agent forward Sam Perkins and if center-power forward Roy Tarpley can stay free of drugs and alcohol, the Mavericks' roster will be as solid as any in the Western Conference, perhaps as any in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons' included.
WHICH WAY, D.J.?
Last week New York Mets vice-president Joe McIlvaine made a trip to Florida to encourage a 24-year-old minor league rookie to stay in baseball. The player—a leftfielder who in 68 games, through Sunday, with the St. Lucie Mets of the Class A Florida State League was hitting .308 with nine homers, 42 RBIs and 25 stolen bases—was Minnesota Viking running back D.J. Dozier. "My message to him was simple," says McIlvaine. "Between all the managers, coaches and instructors in the organization who have seen him play, they all feel like he's going to play in the big leagues, and he's going to play there pretty quickly."
Dozier was a fine shortstop at Kempsville High in Virginia Beach, Va., but played only football at Penn State. In the spring of 1989, curious about his baseball potential, he requested a Mets tryout. In it he impressed team officials with his power and speed, and, after playing out his Viking contract last season (a contract that barred him from playing pro baseball), Dozier signed with New York.
Dozier, who bats and throws righthanded, is one of the few rookies ever to start out so high on the Mets' developmental ladder, St. Lucie being the third-highest of New York's seven farm teams. "If he had come out of high school and played baseball, he'd be in the big leagues right now," says George McClelland, a longtime sports editor of the Norfolk, Va., Virginian-Pilot who now works as publicity director for the St. Lucie team. "The fact that he's come into a very good Class A league—traditionally a pitchers' league—and done what he's done is stunning."