Dunleavy's magic act due honor NBA notebook

April 14, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

With ballots being passed around for various postseason awards, anointing one of the NBA's resident geniuses as Coach of the Year may be equivalent to a kiss of death.

Jack McKinney established this precedent after winning the award with the Indiana Pacers in 1981. McKinney is no longer employed as a head coach. Nor are Gene Shue (Washington, 1982), Frank Layden (Utah, 1984), Mike Fratello (Atlanta, 1986), Mike Schuler (Portland, 1987), Doug Moe (Denver, 1988) and Don Chaney (Houston, 1991).

But with no feeling of guilt, here are our 1992 nominations for coach, MVP, Rookie of the Year, most improved player and sixth-man honors.

Coach of the Year: 1, Mike Dunleavy, Los Angeles Lakers. 2, Pat Riley, New York. 3, Kevin Loughery, Miami.

No coach has overcome more adversity than Dunleavy, who, despite losing team leader Magic Johnson at least for the season, and center Vlade Divac and forward James Worthy for long stretches, still has the Lakers playing over .500 and in the playoff hunt.

With a questionable bench, Dunleavy has stressed defense and an effective halfcourt game to squeeze the maximum out of his depleted team.

By dint of his strong personality and reputation as a coach of four NBA championship teams in Los Angeles, Riley could overshadow Dunleavy in the balloting.

Riley certainly deserves plaudits for returning law and order to the once-chaotic Knicks and all but eliminating the backbiting and petty gripes that marred the previous regimes of John MacLeod, Stu Jackson and Rick Pitino. But Riley also has been fortunate in avoiding major injuries to key players.

Loughery still has an outside shot of becoming the first coach of the most recent group of expansion teams to make the playoffs. Labeled a retread before replacing Ron Rothstein this season, the former Bullets guard and coach has had the Heat flirting with .500 most of the season, despite having the youngest roster in the NBA.

Most Valuable Player: 1, Michael Jordan, Chicago. 2, Mark Price, Cleveland. 3. Clyde Drexler, Portland. Honorable mention -- Dennis Rodman, Detroit.

You may not admire Jordan for his choice of friends and seeking to extract maximum marketing dollars from his image, but you can't argue with his overwhelming statistics.

Arguably, he is getting a giant assist this season from Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, but with a game on the line, no one is more dominant or dependable than "His Airness."

The Cavaliers are blessed with considerable talent, but the wheels fall off the cart whenever Price is sidelined. His leadership and clutch shooting epitomize the meaning of MVP.

Drexler appointed himself team captain and takes his role seriously, sacrificing individual glory for a greater team role.

Rodman, stereotyped as a defensive player, has kept the aging Pistons from falling apart by his remarkable rebounding and aggressive stance.

Rookie of the Year: 1. Larry Johnson, Charlotte. 2. Dikembe Mutombo, Denver. 3. Billy Owens, Golden State.

Johnson wasn't blowing smoke when he said he gave Mutombo a "handicap" the first few months of the season.

After a great first half, Mutombo's offense tailed off as teams concentrated on keeping him off the offensive glass. Then thumb surgery ended his season on April 2.

Johnson got better as the season progressed, exhibiting a wide variety of offensive moves while also quickly establishing himself as the Hornets' go-to guy in clutch situations.

Owens has proved his great versatility with the Warriors, playing both forward positions, and, occasionally, filling in at center. His addition has made Golden State a bona fide title contender.

Most improved: 1. Pervis Ellison, Washington. 2. Reggie Williams, Denver. 3. Terry Davis, Dallas.

This race really is between Ellison and Williams. Ellison started to show his potential the end of the 1990-91 season, but blossomed into one of the league's best young centers this season while ranking among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.

Williams, the Dunbar and Georgetown graduate, was discarded

by the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland and San Antonio before proving himself in Denver and becoming the Nuggets' leading scorer. Branded a "slacker" in Cleveland, the Baltimore native has become the quiet leader of the youthful Nuggets.

Davis was an obscure reserve in Miami last season. The third-year center is now viewed as one of the building blocks in Dallas, averaging 10.3 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Sixth man: 1. Detlef Schrempf, Indiana. The Pacers' all-purpose forward is in a class by himself.

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