Is Nets' head man Reed or Daly?

February 09, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

It was all sweetness and light when former Washington Bullets forward Bernard King joined the New Jersey Nets last weekend. But this is an unfolding story worth watching for its explosive potential.

If nothing else, King's acquisition for the bargain waiver price of $60,000 presents the question of whether Willis Reed, the Nets chief of operations, or Chuck Daly, the head coach, is calling the shots.

On Jan. 23, Reed, tired of answering questions about King's limbo status, said: "I've already told you we have no interest in Bernard, and I don't want to react every time someone reports something. I just don't see how Bernard fits in with us."

But Daly, concerned about his starters' extended minutes and the lack of scoring off the bench, viewed King as a low-risk gamble. And, suddenly, Reed did an about-face.

"Do you mean we don't have the right to change our minds?" Reed asked. "Chuck felt we needed more scoring. I'm not sure Bernard can do it, but he's done it before."

Once he donned a Nets uniform, King, whose five-year association with the Bullets ended in acrimony and a shoving match with coach Wes Unseld, became the consummate team player.

Unlike the demands he made of Unseld to regain the starter's minutes he played before his knee surgery in 1991, he said he was ready to assume any role Daly saw fit.

But his new teammates had some doubts.

"It's hard to see how this will affect our chemistry," said scoring leader Drazen Petrovic. "But I know a couple of guys already upset by this."

One teammate Petrovic had in mind was Chris Morris, who, after years of under-achieving, has come into his own as an all-purpose small forward. Morris feels he has earned full-time status, but now will be looking over his shoulder.

And then there is power forward Derrick Coleman, whose giant ego matches King's. The Nets' go-to guy in crunch time, Coleman isn't about to relinquish his status without a fight.

Said Daly, who managed to keep all the Detroit Pistons' egos in check while winning consecutive NBA titles in 1989 and 1990: "I've got concerns, but I don't know that we had great chemistry, anyway. So I said, 'How bad can the chemistry be by adding King?'

"I don't think you make decisions on what your players want. They're concerned with their own stats and situations. I'm concerned about winning."

Daly acknowledged that counting on King to provide instant offense was "a wild shot in the dark." But he likened it to his situation in Detroit in 1989 when, after deciding Adrian Dantley had lost his scoring touch, he traded him to Dallas for a younger Mark Aguirre.

"It was tough, but you reach a point where you have to try and make something happen," Daly said.

"I liken King to a gunslinger. They ride into town and start shooting. I had Kelly Tripucka, Dantley, Aguirre and now King. You take a gamble. I buy lottery tickets and never win, but you keep hoping to get lucky."

Assistant coach Brendan Suhr, who followed Daly from Detroit to New Jersey, said: "Chuck is interested in constant improvement. He's not going to say, 'We're good,' and bury his head in the sand. It's like that with Exxon, IBM and the New Jersey Nets."

But the players still have to be convinced, and point guard Kenny Anderson put the ball squarely in King's court.

"Maybe he can be a plus," said Anderson, "but it's up to him how the players will react. We don't need any friction on our team now."

Admiral demoted

Veteran forward Sidney Green, who played with David Robinson in San Antonio before being traded to Charlotte, suggests that the Spurs All-Star center could be even better if he displayed the same aggressiveness as Hornets rookie Alonzo Mourning.

"That would make Robinson the best player of the league, even better than Michael Jordan," Green said.

Charity stripe

Former Dallas Mavericks star Roy Tarpley, hoping to gain reinstatement to the NBA after his drug ban, is dominating the competition in the Greek Basketball League and earning $1.2 million. He recently donated $50,000 to the John Lucas rehabilitation center in Houston where he had spent some time.

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