A number of teams, including the Washington Bullets, could be kicking themselves for passing over Stanley Roberts, the 7-foot, 265-pound center from LSU who was finally claimed by the Orlando Magic with the 23rd pick in the 1991 NBA draft.
After several crash diets, Roberts, who played in Spain last season, is finally beginning to show signs of his potential. In a recent 10-game stretch for the Magic, he averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.
With his strong inside game, Roberts might have served as a perfect frontcourt complement to the Bullets' Pervis Ellison, a strong forward masquerading as a center out of necessity.
Bullets general manager John Nash was impressed by Roberts' basketball skills after scouting him playing for Real Madrid last summer, but coach Wes Unseld's reluctance to use the team's first-round pick (19th) on Roberts was certainly understandable.
In recent years, Unseld has experienced extreme frustration trying to motivate such heavyweights as John Williams, Mel Turpin and Ledell Eackles, who remains a pet project. Opting for shooting guard LaBradford Smith was less hazardous.
Orlando coach Matt Guokas has shown considerable patience in developing Roberts, who early in the season had problems playing extended minutes and a propensity for getting in early foul trouble. But Magic fans, desperate for a hero, have made Roberts the object of their affection, cheering his every move.
After Roberts put together a string of effective games, Guokas said: "That's what playing pro basketball is all about. It's not about playing good once a week or every four or five days as Stanley has done in the past. It's about getting it done every night. He is now a guy who demands double-teaming. We need a little bit of everything from him."
To his credit, Roberts has been putting in extra time before and after practices. But Guokas still wants him to develop a tougher mental approach.
"He's got to learn to ignore minor aches and pains," Guokas said. "I told him about seeing Pete Rose get hit square by a fastball and pretending it never touched him. It's up to Stanley to decide how much this game means to him. He can still lose some weight. He's got to get in shape like Superman."
Tame Warrior: The explosive Golden State Warriors are one of the favorites to win the Western Conference title, but playmaker Tim Hardaway says his team is still a big man away from being a champion. Rookie Victor Alexander, 6-foot-9, 265, has been starting at center, but Hardaway says, "He has a good NBA body, but he's not aggressive enough inside yet."
Too much bark: Former Philadelphia 76ers superstar Julius Erving took exception to current star Charles Barkley's recent outburst against reporters covering the team. Said Erving: "Charles is a great player, but he can be very depressing. I still have feeling for the organization, and people have a way of taking one athlete's action and stereotyping the whole field."
West won't travel: Despite an attractive offer to take over the front office of the struggling Sacramento Kings next season, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West says he is staying put. "As long as [Lakers owner] Jerry Buss wants me to stay, this is where I'll be." Added Buss, "West and I have decided to tie our futures together for the rest of our basketball lives."
Olympic-bound?: Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard Clyde Drexler is gaining strong support for a berth on the 1992 U.S. Olympic squad after being overlooked in the initial selection process. Drexler's chances will improve immeasurably if Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and John Stockton boycott the Olympic Games in a dispute over merchandising involving the use of their images. "I'd have to give Clyde serious consideration," said Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Wayne Embry, vice chairman of the selection committee.