Washington Bullets forward Bernard King is writing an incredible story this season, challenging for the National Basketball Association scoring title at age 34 and only five years from a career-threatening knee injury.
But if the All-Star Game balloting is any indication, only fans in the Baltimore-Washington area seem aware of his comeback. It also is a result of the Bullets' ranking among the lowest teams in attendance, and efforts in several cities to stuff the ballot box.
A month ago, King was running last among the eight Eastern Conference forwards on the official ballot. In the latest count, he passed Detlef Schrempf of the Indiana Pacers and Charles Oakley of the New York Knicks.
Under the All-Star format, the top two vote-getters are guaranteed roster spots for the game, Feb. 10 in Charlotte, N.C. Right now, Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers and Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics seem assured of nomination.
Conference coaches are then polled to pick the remaining seven players, usually three forwards, three guards and a backup center.
Some coaches avoid controversy by simply choosing those players next in the voting. In this case, the reserve Eastern lTC All-Star forwards would be Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks, Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls and Kevin McHale of Boston, all enjoying solid seasons.
A solid case also could be made for the Detroit Pistons' Dennis Rodman, the league's premier defensive player who was an All-Star choice last season.
But there is sentiment among the Eastern coaches, who have tried unsuccessfully to stop King, to select him.
King, who missed almost two years after knee surgery in March 1985, has made it plain that an All-Star selection would culminate his comeback.
Rumor becomes reality: All season, veteran center Mike Gminski kept hearing reports that the 76ers were prepared to trade him to the Charlotte Hornets for power forward Armon Gilliam, the Hornets' leading scorer and rebounder. The rumors cooled, however, when the Hornets got off to a quick start and Gilliam became the hub of their offense.
But when Charlotte lost 12 of 14 games starting in December and J.R. Reid proved inadequate at center, the trade was made, with Hornets backup center Dave Hoppen as a throw-in.
The deal was pushed by 76ers hands-on owner Harold Katz, who said: "Even though we've been winning, I felt we had to make a deal because our shooting percentage was too low. Our game had been too outside-in. With Gilliam, we should get more close-in shots."
Gminski, 31, is five years older than Gilliam, and his scoring has declined dramatically since he was traded to the 76ers in 1988 by the New Jersey Nets. He averaged 17.2 that first season in Philadelphia, but had dipped to 9.1 this season and shot a career-low 38 percent from the field.
Gminski recently had purchased a home in suburban Philadelphia, convinced the trade talk had died. But the former Duke star should be welcomed on Tobacco Road.
Mended Net: The struggling Nets welcomed back versatile forward Roy Hinson, who has been sidelined since last February after knee surgery.
"I've been working toward this day for the last six months," said Hinson, who was averaging 15 points before his injury last season. "Just seeing my name in the box score will be a great feeling right now. But it will be a learning process the next few weeks."
But Nets coach Bill Fitch has bigger plans for him. "It's like taking aspirin. He can help everywhere," said Fitch. "I'll use him like a relief pitcher. I can use him every day as long as I don't pitch him too many innings."
Talking trash: Houston Rockets coach Don Chaney, who faces the next three to four weeks without injured All-NBA center Akeem Olajuwon, says his team gets no respect. His Rockets have compiled an 18-13 record without any long winning or losing streaks. "We're not scum," he said. "Some people might think we are, but we're not."
Unfounded rumor: Pistons general manager Jack McCloskey quashed a report that he was prepared to trade perennial All-Star guard Isiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Clippers for forward Danny Manning and a No. 1 pick.
The rumor had the Pistons then trading their extra 1991 draft choice to the Orlando Magic for point guard Scott Skiles.
"You can be absolutely sure it won't happen," said McCloskey. "We've already had one disaster in this city." McCloskey was referring to the Detroit Tigers' decision to force popular baseball announcer Ernie Harwell into retirement after the 1991 season.
Bad timing: Atlanta Hawks coach Bob Weiss could not understand why he was voted Coach of the Month after going 11-3 in December. "It's strange, because I worked much harder when we went 4-10 in November," he said.