'Other Michael' is giving Bullets Jordan-like numbers Adams is spark plug in back-to-back wins

November 04, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

His Washington Bullets teammates call him "the other Michael."

And, considering his first two games since returning to a Bullets uniform, Michael Adams has nothing to apologize for in being compared to superstar Michael Jordan.

Certainly, Adams had Jordan-like statistics the first weekend of the new season in leading the Bullets to a 109-103 road victory in Indiana on Friday and an overtime, 126-118 triumph over the Boston Celtics at the Capital Centre the following night.

The veteran point guard, listed generously at 5 feet 10, totaled 63 points, 24 assists, 13 steals and nine rebounds. Bullets coach Wes Unseld called Adams' back-to-back efforts "incredible."

Considering how Adams has generated Washington's once-moribund fast break, consistently hit three-pointers (6-for-13) and tormented rivals with his quick hands, it is difficult to believe that the Bullets waived him twice and then traded him before he was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in June in exchange for a draft lottery pick (No. 8).

After Kevin Loughery was fired as Bullets head coach in January 1988, he said his greatest mistake was trading Adams, whom he recognized as his only true leader.

Adams shrugs and smiles when past snubs by the Bullets are raised.

"That was then. This is now," he said Saturday night after burning the Celtics for 40 points, including one stretch in the first quarter when he scored 10 in 45 seconds.

He crammed 29 points into the first half, making all but one of his 13 shots. After scoring only three in the second half, he added eight points, three assists and a steal in the overtime.

"When you get traded in pro sports, it's a business," he said. "You're only really concerned about getting a chance to play and prove yourself, and I was given that opportunity in Denver."

Adams became the catalyst for Paul Westhead's run-and-gun offense last season, averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 assists and 2.2 steals.

That the Nuggets saw fit to trade him despite such a season apparently does not bother him.

"I was fortunate to come back to Washington and get a chance to show the Bullets what I can do," he said. "Coach [Wes] Unseld is allowing me to do the same things here that I did in Denver in running the offense."

When the trade was announced during the NBA Finals in Los Angeles in June, opinion seemed divided whether the Bullets were wise in swapping a lottery pick for an undersized guard whose 1990-91 statistics may have been inflated by Denver's hellbent offensive style.

But general manager John Nash envisioned Adams as a key to the Bullets' rebuilding plans.

"When I looked back on our team last season," said Nash, "I

found we had some very good players, but suffered from the lack of a true point guard.

"We were trying to play a half-court game with Bernard King and Darrell Walker and a running game with Harvey Grant and Pervis Ellison.

"With King out [with a knee injury], our only chance to win now is to play an uptempo game and try to get easy baskets in transition, and no one is better at this than Michael," Nash said. "But what has surprised me is that he also has improved our ability to score in a half-court offense."

Ellison, a 6-10 center who benefits most from Adams' deft inside feeds and lob passes, put it more succinctly.

"He creates havoc," said Ellison.

Adams, 28, has been doing that since his days at Boston College, but his size made NBA scouts skeptical.

He was drafted in the third round by the Sacramento Kings in 1985, but released after playing in only 18 games, told he was too short and minus a shooter's touch.

To gain another NBA trial, he first had to hone his game in the United States Basketball League and Continental Basketball Association, playing weekends for a factory worker's wage.

"I practiced taking 200 shots a day," he recalled. "I knew I could shoot, but when people tell you that you can't, sometimes you start believing them. My agent and I had a deal that I'd try to make it in the NBA in three years. If I didn't, I'd try another line of work."

That option never became a necessity. His game blossomed in Denver, where Doug Moe first granted him the freedom to launch his shot-putted three-point shots. In four seasons with the Nuggets, he made 630 from this range, making him the NBA's all-time leading three-point scorer.

"Playing here is even more fun," said Adams. "Last year in Denver, most of the pressure to score was on me, and it ultimately wore me down physically. Now, I've got a lot more help and options. But I still love taking the game right to my opponent. When you're a little guy like me, you've got to fight them every step of the way."

NOTES: Before the season opened, Unseld was concerned about an offense trying to compensate for King's missing 28 points per game. But the Bullets are averaging 117.5 points, led by Adams (31.0) and Grant (22.5). Support has come from reserves Tom Hammonds (13.5) and David Wingate (12.0). Ellison has grabbed 28 rebounds in 2 games. . . . Unseld gave the team the day off yesterday, but practice resumes today for a Capital Centre game with Philadelphia tomorrow night.

Up and Adams

How Michael Adams has played in the Bullets' first two games

this season:

Opp. ... FG....... FT...... 3-pt. ... A.... St. .... Pt.

Ind. ... 9-22..... 4-5..... 1-7...... 13.... 9...... 23

Bos. ... 15-23.... 5-8..... 5-6...... 11.... 4...... 40

Tot. ... 24-45.... 9-13.... 6-13..... 24... 13...... 63

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