Ever since the late Fred Zollner loaned his company jet to his basketball team, the Fort Wayne (now Detroit) Pistons, in the early 1950s, NBA teams have viewed traveling by charter as the only way to fly.
With the league now spread across 27 cities, almost all the franchises hire charters when faced with home and road games on consecutive nights. It is costly, but considered beneficial because it reduces wear and tear on the players.
The Washington Bullets have booked a number of charter flights this season, and it may be a factor in their three victories in five road games. Last season, the Bullets did not win their third road game until Dec. 22.
But for at least one team, the extravagance is hardly worth it. The Sacramento Kings used charters for all their road trips last season and finished 1-40, recording their only victory over the Bullets at the Capital Centre on Nov. 20.
When one of the Kings owners complained to Dick Motta, the coach replied, "Heck, I don't think we'd have won that one game if we didn't use that private plane."
P.S. The Kings have lost their first three road games this season, extending their record losing streak to 40. It may be time to call Amtrak.
... The big score: After his Utah Jazz defeated the Bullets at the Capital Centre Saturday night, Karl Malone, an All-NBA forward, asked a reporter for the score. No, not an NBA score, but the gubernatorial election result from his native Louisiana.
He was greatly relieved to learn that Edwin Edwards had trounced former Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke, 61 percent to 39 percent.
Malone, who is from Summerfield, La., had called the fact that Duke was even in the running, "the most embarrassing, disgusting, unbelievable thing I've seen in my life."
Malone said he had vehemently expressed his opposition to Duke in the media but was not contacted by Edwards to make his thoughts known in any pre-election commercials.
"I'm not in politics," he said, "but maybe I should run for governor."
... Magic is gone: With Magic Johnson no longer conducting "Showtime" in Los Angeles, NBA experts are ready to relegate the devastated Lakers to the second tier of title contenders. Said long-time backcourt partner Byron Scott: "You see guys in tears of agony after losing in the finals, but I've never been in anything like this. Part of me is gone. The fun part of the game has been taken away."
Lakers general manager Jerry West has a more practical problem, trying to find a proven point guard to fill Johnson's role. West reportedly is most interested in unsigned Miami Heat playmaker Sherman Douglas and Dallas veteran Derek Harper.
Douglas, who reportedly rejected a five-year deal worth $9.5 million, seems a more workable trade since surprising Miami is in first place with rookie Steve Smith of Michigan State filling the position beyond expectations.
Says Heat coach Kevin Loughery, "What Smith does is create the unselfishness we've been striving for."
Weiss remarks: When he cut free agent guard Paul "Snoopy" Graham of Ohio University, Atlanta Hawks coach Bob Weiss said Graham lacked the shooting touch to survive in the NBA.
But when he lost starting shooting guard Travis Mays for the season following knee surgery, Weiss recalled Graham and now says, "Here's a guy who epitomizes all we want our team to be."
... Net loss: Swing man Jud Buechler blasted New Jersey management for waiving him to make room in their salary cap for prized rookie Kenny Anderson, but now feels fortunate to have been claimed by San Antonio.
Said Buechler, reunited on the Spurs with former Arizona teammate Sean Elliott: "In New Jersey, they just want to play in May to reach the playoffs. In San Antonio, they want to win the whole thing, and it's a reachable goal."
... In other words. . .: New York Knicks coach Pat Riley commenting on the mentality of rookies: "They have a proclivity to be wandering generalities instead of meaningful specifics."