During a third-period timeout, the Nets' mascot—a blue something or other known as Super Dunk—brandished an eye chart as he walked toward Bill Spooner, a young referee. It was not the most original of gimmicks, but, then, Super Dunk is not the most original of mascots. Spooner looked away for a few seconds, then walked unsmilingly toward Super Dunk, grabbed the chart, strode across the court and threw the chart on the scorer's table.
And what did Garretson, who was also working the game, do to help out his colleague? As a few boos rained down on Spooner, Garretson, with a look on his face that hinted disapproval, spread his arms for the guys on row and mouthed the words, "What's he doing?" Garretson then said out loud, "When he gets older, he'll think that's funny." Later, during another mildewed timeout bit by Super Dunk, Garretson was offered and accepted a pair of eyeglasses.
So, which is it, Darell? Do as you say? Or do as you do?
Which of the NBA's 27 teams are the most pleasant and unpleasant surprises this season? That was the question posed to SI's 16-player panel this week. As usual, players could not vote for their own team, which made Joe Dumars's initial response invalid. "Hmm," said Dumars, "I'd say the Pistons on both counts."
Actually, Dumars and six other voters helped the Nets score a clear victory over the Magic and the Sonics (both claimed four votes) for most pleasant surprise. The only other team to get a vote was the Kings, who earned Karl Malone's nod. "Let me tell you," said Malone, "they're building one tough team out there."
The Net boosters were clear on their reasons: They expected Chuck Daly to make New Jersey better, but it is still a surprise when a Net team plays with cohesiveness and intelligence, as this one does (most of the time, anyway). Ditto for the Sonics, about whom voter Sam Bowie said, "They can win it all." And though the addition of Shaquille O'Neal figured to vastly improve the Magic, voters Clyde Drexler, Scott Hastings, Chris Mullin and Dominique Wilkins nevertheless found the Magic (17-17 at week's end) surprising. Said Hastings, "They're still a team with only two or three good players."
The Heat (12-25) was deemed the most disappointing team, with six votes. While acknowledging that the injury to point guard Steve Smith (he joined the team on Jan. 20 after missing the first 34 games) has hurt Miami, Reggie Miller summarized the majority s opinion: "They looked to be a breakthrough team last year, but they've gone backward." Not surprisingly, the Mavericks (3-33) got three votes. "You knew they weren't a top team," said Wilkins, "but there was no way they could sink this low." More surprisingly, the 21-19 Celtics got two votes, one from ex-Celt Danny Ainge: "After Cleveland and Chicago, I thought Boston and New York would fight it out," he said. (The other Celtic voter preferred anonymity.)
Completing the voting with one each were the Warriors (Dumars), the Pacers ( Malone), the Timberwolves ( Drexler), the Knicks ( Michael Adams) and the Bulls (Hastings).
The Bulls? The defending champs, who through last weekend still had the league's fourth-best record? "Obviously, winning another NBA championship isn't their main focus any longer," said Hastings in words that may soon appear on coach Phil Jackson's bulletin board. "Now, it's who gets the shots, who gets the points, who gets the money."