With Hornets, Bogues finds a better fit

January 04, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- This time a year ago, then-Charlotte Hornets head coach Dick Harter was trying to rid his team of Muggsy Bogues, a 5-foot-3 point guard whom he regarded as a defensive liability.

But Bogues, a favorite of Hornets owner George Shinn, outlasted Harter and now is considered one of Charlotte's most valuable basketball properties.

"I know Denver was real interested in Muggsy to run their offense before they drafted Chris Jackson," said the Hornets' new coach, Gene Littles. "Muggsy has become very marketable for teams who like to run."

Still, Bogues says he realizes how precarious life can be in the National Basketball Association. Just this season, two of his former teammates on Dunbar High's mythical high school championship team of 1982 -- Reggie Williams and David Wingate -- found themselves without jobs.

Wingate was released by the San Antonio Spurs after being indicted on rape charges in Texas and Maryland, and Williams, like Bogues a No. 1 draft choice in 1987, was waived by the Spurs just before Christmas.

"I didn't believe it when I heard Reggie was cut. I thought he was joking," Bogues said before last night's game with the Washington Bullets. "I know he's a great player, and he was having his best year as a pro.

"Wingate? He just hung out with the wrong people and was too much into having fun. But his problems were off the court, not on it. But it shows you that you just can't predict what's going to happen in this league."

It seemed safe to predict that Bogues had little future in the pros after the Bullets soured on him after his rookie season and decided to leave him unprotected in the 1988 expansion draft.

Reflecting on his season in Washington, Bogues, who was chosen before forwards Reggie Lewis -- another Dunbar teammate -- and Ken Norman, said: "They didn't commit themselves to me. They had Moses Malone and wanted to play a walk-up style, and I can't be effective that way. But there's no bitterness on my part. I've never been one to dwell on negatives."

Some said Bogues was brought to the Bullets to form a novelty act with 7-foot-7 center Manute Bol, now with the Philadelphia 76ers. Now both are gone, and much more appreciated by their new teams.

But not until Littles replaced Harter did Bogues become more than a favorite of Shinn and Hornets fans.

"Coach Harter wasn't thrilled with my height and used me mostly as a role player," Bogues said. "When we lost games, Harter basically blamed me. But when Gene took over, he believed in me and gave me that extra confidence."

Bogues improved his statistics last season and was voted the Hornets' Most Valuable Player. His scoring has dipped from a career-high 9.4 average last season to his current 7.3, but he is averaging 10.1 assists -- third best in the league -- and has the NBA's best assist-to-turnover ratio.

'He's our leader and he gets the right people the ball," said Littles. "I know the big guys in the league hate playing against him. They can't see him coming, and he sneaks up and steals the ball.

"I can't remember a game where we got beat by a rival point guard. It's usually the big guys who burn us."

Littles has encouraged Bogues to shoot more and pass less. "He's got to keep the defense honest," the coach said. "When he's making that outside shot, he opens things up for Rex Chapman and Dell Curry."

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