Adams points way for Bullets in the fast lane

JOHN EISENBERG

November 05, 1991|By JOHN EISENBERG

What is remarkable about the Bullets' sweep of their season-opening weekend is that it is not that remarkable.

No, it isn't.

Which is your cue to say: Whaaaaat? Not remarkable? Sweeping the Pacers and Celtics after that clueless, winless, baby crawl of a preseason? Without Bernard King and John (Burger) Williams? How can you say that's not remarkable, beard-breath?

Easy. Here's how I can say it: not that remarkable.

Which is your cue to say: You're full of it. Up to the neck full of it. Before the first game you wouldn't have bet a nickel on the Bullets'winning both games.

OK, OK, that's true. You've got me there.

(Goodness, I seem to have out-argued myself here. Memo to self: No more italics today.)

Anyway, conceding that I wouldn't have bet a nickel on it, anadmitting that it's a surprising and fine accomplishment, I still offer my basic premise: It was reasonably do-able. More so than you think.

Yeah, and where was that opinion last Friday morning when you. .

. . .urg. . .

(Sorry. The italics were staging a little coup there. Trying to overthrow the column. I "took care" of them.)

Anyway, it was reasonably do-able not because the Pacers and Celtics were overconfident (they were) or because the Bullets were inspired by the possibility that John Williams might again pledge to lay off double-meat burgers now that he's missed training camp.

It was do-able because, with Michael Adams now ping-zinging around at point guard, the Bullets are up to speed in the NBA of 1992.

See, pro basketball doesn't belong to big men anymore. The league has gone small on us. (Small being a relative thing, of course, with Scottie Pippen "small" at 6 feet 7.)

Games can be won in the backcourt now, all other circumstances be damned, as long as you have a hot point guard. And Adams is a hot, hot, hot point guard. (Catch that 10-points-in-45-seconds gig Saturday night? Yowwee.)

The Pacers put an almost-rookie on him. The Celtics point guard, Dee Brown, was injured. Adams took both games, kicked up the speed and made them his. It happens all the time in the NBA of 1992.

The league is all about speed now. Remember the Michael-Magic finals? The Bulls made the Lakers look like sloths, winning the title with (Mister) Bill Cartwright at center. Before them it was the Pistons and Bill (What, Me Rebound?) Laimbeer.

Long gone are the days when teams were lost without a giant, almighty center. There are only three in the league now -- Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson (and a budding fourth in Denver rookie Dikembe Mutombo) -- and none has won a championship. Ewing and Robinson haven't come close.

What's more, the species is a dinosaur. The college game has no budding big man these days other than Shaquille O'Neal. The well has dried up. Why it happened is a mystery, probably just attributable to chance. Anyway, the point is it has caused the NBA to change drastically.

Coaches used to design offenses to set up, post up, dump it inside, blah, blah. They did it because championship teams did it. But now coaches let their guards and forwards keep the ball, create, make the game their own. Now everyone is on the run, like the Bulls.

Big men are still valuable, but they're hardly an end-all. The Golden State Warriors blew out the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last year even though no important Warrior stood within a half-foot of Robinson. No problem. Just keep running.

Now everyone is looking for the modern prototype of a big man, Utah's Karl Malone, a forward who owns the boards but also runs the break and shoots jumpers. And now everyone wants a hot point guard to run the pace. John Stockton. Kevin Johnson. )) Isiah Thomas. Tim Hardaway. Mark Price. Scott Skiles.

Michael Adams.

They all play the same, a game that never slows, that relies not on a big man in the middle but on quick feet and runners on either side of them. And scoring, as Adams did over the weekend.

The Bullets couldn't play that game before now. Darrell Walker was their point guard, an unsung hero who provided defense, assists and rebounding. Traded to Detroit, he is missed. But Adams is the right man for the age, a speed pill for fast times.

Of course, speed alone isn't nearly enough over 82 games, and the Bullets lack a number of qualities. Depth. A proven shooting guard. King probably will never regain his form of a year ago. Williams is a lost cause. It's too bad. Had King and Williams been hale and hearty, this could have been a playoff team.

As things stand now, they're a long shot to make the playoffs. But in Pervis Ellison and Harvey Grant they do have a couple of prototypical frontcourters for 1992, quick-footed big men who can follow Adams' lead when he is hot enough to take over a game.

They make a handy threesome, and combined with strong defense and the hustle Wes Unseld demands, there are going to be nights when the Bullets belong with -- and beat -- the best. They're certainly going to be more entertaining. At least now they're up to speed.

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