King's post-injury posture follows other star's script

January 19, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

Quiz: Can you name the NBA player in this script?

A superstar suffers a serious injury. He isolates himself from his team, hires therapists, works out privately and shuns management pleas to appear at games.

When he considers himself fit to play again, he insists the team reinstate him immediately. When the owner and general manager balk, the player threatens to make a scene until he gets his way.

Answer: No, it is not Bernard King, although his current controversy with the Washington Bullets bears a startling similarity to the bizarre situation that took place in Chicago in 1985-86 between the Bulls and Michael Jordan.

The Bulls were trying to protect their most valuable property. Jordan had become a box office magnet by his spectacular play as a rookie in the 1984-85 season.

But he suffered a cracked bone in his left foot in an exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors and spent the first five months of the regular season rehabilitating.

Like King, Jordan had his own medical team supervise his rehabilitation in North Carolina. He rebuked general manager Jerry Krause's pleas to join the Bulls on road trips, but was seen on television sitting on the North Carolina bench with his college coach, Dean Smith.

He further alienated his teammates by suggesting they were not trying hard enough to win games in his absence.

"I'm not trying to create controversy," Jordan said, "but I also believe a hurt dog will holler. I didn't say the whole team wasn't trying, just certain players."

Again, like King, Jordan's personal therapist, Judy Joffe, declared him fit to play in March, but Krause felt the team was served best by his delaying his return until the following season.

Jordan, adamant, forced a meeting with Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and they reached a compromise under which then-coach Stan Albeck would limit Jordan's time to some 24 minutes a game.

"We were trying to hedge our bets," Krause said in retrospect. "I wasn't going to be the guy who let Michael Jordan break his foot again."

Jordan ultimately returned to action March 15, 1986, and gave the Bulls a split personality. Minus Jordan, they played a deliberate half-court style. With him, the Bulls played an up-tempo game. But with a chance to make the playoffs, Jordan was turned loose and freed of management restraints.

He would electrify the nation by scoring 49 and 63 points in the first two games of the miniseries against Boston before the Celtics held him to 19 in completing a three-game sweep. But Jordan had taken his place alongside NBA legends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Call him selfish, but King, at 36, apparently still entertains those same dreams of becoming the center of the basketball universe.

Los Angeles Clippers star Danny Manning has rescinded his trade request that resulted from a recent shouting match with coach Larry Brown. But insiders say that there is little chance of Manning's remaining a Clipper beyond the expiration of his five-year contract this summer.

A rival NBA coach said that the latest blow-up between Brown and the forward is the final straw. The two had a steamy relationship at Kansas, where Manning led the Jayhawks to the NCAA title in 1988.

But his father, Ed, who was a teammate of Brown's with the American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars and an assistant coach at Kansas, served as a buffer. Ed Manning, however, is now an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, and Danny has grown weary of being the principal target of Brown's tirades.

Working with his present $2.6 million contract, Manning will likely only accept a qualifying offer from the Clippers next season, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in 1994.

Assessing his bargaining position will make teams reluctant to trade for Manning in 1993 unless he would agree to a multi-year deal. But for now, he holds all the cards.

Tale of the tape

When King surprised Wes Unseld by confronting him in practice a week ago, he may not have been aware that the Bullets coach once considered fighting professionally.

It was in the late 1960s, and a young Unseld, then the backbone of the Baltimore Bullets, was approached in the off-season by local boxing promoter Eli Hanover with an offer to fight a Washington heavyweight named Bobo Renfrow, who also had spent some time on the Washington Redskins taxi squad.

Renfrow, 6 feet 4, 250 pounds, had a body like Hercules', but his fight heart often was questioned.

"I coulda been a contender," said Unseld, but Bullets management learned of his proposed bout and told him he would have to restrict himself to over-the-weight matches with rival centers Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Lanier, Nate Thurmond, Walt Bellamy and Willis Reed.

Knick knocks

Having split their 10 most recent games and seen their Atlantic Division lead all but disappear, the New York Knicks held a players-only meeting in Houston on Saturday night after a two-point loss to the Rockets.

"We're not playing hard enough," said power forward Charles Oakley. "The way we're playing now is really ridiculous with all the talent we have. Sometimes you can have too much.

"We've got a lot of new guys, and it's time for everyone to come together."

The meeting must have helped: The Knicks beat Phoenix yesterday, 106-103.

Demographics

Asked the difference between playing in Philadelphia and Phoenix, redoubtable Suns forward Charles Barkley said: "Ain't no black folks in Phoenix. Only a few, and most of those are my teammates."

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