Most-Improved Player: Chris Jackson of the Nuggets. The third pick in the 1990 draft, Jackson looked like a giant mistake after two years. But he got into shape and averaged 19.2 points this season. He's definitely a keeper.
Best Sixth Man: Danny Ainge of the Suns. Why not Cliff Robinson of the Trail Blazers? For the same reason that I never voted for Schrempf when he was coming off the Pacer bench: He's too good. To me, a sixth man is a player with a specific role (Ainge's is three-point shooting and ball handling in the clutch) who makes a significant contribution even though he is not quite good enough (or, in the case of Ainge, young enough) to be a starter. Only Terry Porter played more minutes for Portland than did Robinson, who, when Drexler wasn't available, was clearly the Blazers' best player.
Coach of the Year: Rudy Tomjanovich of the Rockets. Riley did a terrific job, but no one did more to change his team's personality than Rudy T did. He took over a team rife with turmoil and nurtured it to the fourth-best record in the league.
Here are a few other awards not officially sanctioned by the NBA.
The What's in a Name Award: The 76ers, who have a Jordan (Thomas, a free-agent acquisition from Spain) and a Shack (the somnolent Charles Shackle-ford), but still finished with the fifth-worst record in the league (26-56).
The This Is Not a Rookie League Award: To O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning of the Hornets, Christian Laettner of the Timberwolves, LaPhonso Ellis of the Nuggets, Tom Gugliotta of the Bullets, Clarence Weatherspoon of the 76ers, Robert Horry of the Rockets, Latrell Sprewell of the Warriors, Anthony Avent of the Bucks and Sean Rooks of the Mavericks. All of them started for much of the season, and many started from day one. The list could also have included Richard Dumas, who would have started most of the Suns' games if not for a midseason injury, and Walt Williams, probably the second-best player (behind Mitch Richmond) on the Kings, though Sacramento preferred to use him as a sixth man.
The You Thought It Would Be Mark Price Award: Amid the anonymity of a Timberwolf-Jazz game on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, Minnesota guard Micheal Williams accomplished a feat that eluded Price just last month. With 11:17 left in the third period in Minneapolis, Williams converted his 79th straight free throw to break the mark set by former Houston guard Calvin Murphy in 1981. Price made 77 consecutive shots from the line before gagging the potential record-tying shot on April 2. Williams, a .907 free throw shooter, finished the game—a 113-111 Timberwolf win—with his streak intact at 84, to be continued in 1993-94. "I want to get to 100," Williams said.