Cornerstone in place for most rebuilding teams

January 23, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

The times, they are a-changin'. As a matter of fact, they have already a-changed.

The dynasties of the '80s have been plowed under, the Bulls' dynasty of the '90s is on its way down and a new class of budding powers is on its way up.

It's not hard to guess who the elite will be in five years: Orlando with Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway; Charlotte with Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson; Golden State with Chris Webber, Latrell Sprewell, Billy Owens and Tim Hardaway; Seattle with Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Kendall Gill.

But, in five years, which of today's downtrodden -- teams not now in playoff slots -- will be back? Here's how the rebuilding programs look:

* 1. Philadelphia 76ers -- Shawn Bradley, 21, will be a force when he learns how to play and they get him some muscular help. Clarence Weatherspoon, 23, is a big-timer. Plus they have a tradable asset in Jeff Hornacek.

* 2. Washington Bullets -- They may cost coach Wes Unseld his job, but Tom Gugliotta, 24; Don MacLean, 24, and reborn prospect Rex Chapman, 26, are the light at the end of a long tunnel. If Pervis Ellison, 27, makes it back, so much the better.

* 3. Minnesota Timberwolves -- They're the only expansion team that still looks like an expansion team, but they have two budding superstars, Christian Laettner, 24, and Isaiah Rider, 22.

* 4. Dallas Mavericks -- Blue-chippers, Jamal Mashburn, 21, and Jim Jackson, 23, still figure to be stars. Quinn Buckner won't be around to see it, though.

* 5. Los Angeles Lakers -- They've only begun to rebuild but Jerry West struck out boldly and already has Doug Christie, 23; Anthony Peeler, 24; Nick Van Exel, 22, and George Lynch, 23, despite never having missed the playoffs. Vlade Divac is only 26. This summer, they'll get a lottery pick and will have A.C. Green's $1.75-million slot to offer a free agent. However, dynasties are built on superstars like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and West has to find one of those.

* 6. Sacramento Kings -- They cost general manager Jerry Reynolds his job, but with Mitch Richmond, 28; Lionel Simmons, 25; Walt Williams, 23, and Bobby Hurley, 22, they're not far away. Maybe Mitch Kupchak or whoever succeeds Reynolds will be luckier in the lottery.

* 7. Los Angeles Clippers -- They can't start rebuilding until they stop tearing down. Danny Manning, 27, is expected to leave. Ron Harper, 29, has vowed to go but people who know him say he'll take the best offer, which may still be here. Loy Vaught, 26, and Mark Jackson, 28, are players. Stanley Roberts, 23, remains a prospect but has to prove he'll ever see 275 pounds.

* 8. Milwaukee Bucks -- Mike Dunleavy made them younger in a hurry, but now he's got to make them better. Eric Murdock, 25; Todd Day, 23, and Vin Baker, 22, are prospects but not budding superstars.

RF * 9. Detroit Pistons -- Lindsey Hunter, 23; Allan Houston, 22; Ter

ry Mills, 26, and Sean Elliott, 24, are a start, but Isiah Thomas, 32, and Joe Dumars, 30, should have been cashed in for prospects two years ago.

* 10. Boston Celtics -- The Len Bias and Reggie Lewis tragedies leave them with a bunch of so-so prospects. Dino Radja, 26, is the only exciting one.

* 11. New Jersey Nets -- Unless everyone misses his guess, Derrick Coleman, 26, will be gone by the summer of '95, leaving only Kenny Anderson, 23, who will be the next one who wants out.

Coleman to Lakers?

The Lakers must be intrigued to hear that a young super-duper like Coleman reportedly included them on a list of teams to which he would accept a trade.

On the other hand, Coleman has a bad back, a dour exterior and a history of haranguing teammates, showing up coaches and blowing off the press. Whoever gives him $69 million or more straps his franchise to the back of a tiger.

Two weeks after giving teammates T-shirts commemorating the Nets' $69-million offer he turned down, Coleman finally consented to make his first comment on the situation.

That is, he recapped some of the things he hadn't said . . . yet.

"Did I ever say I didn't want to stay?" Coleman said. "Did you ever read anything in the paper that quoted me as saying I didn't want to stay in New Jersey? Then, don't speculate."

Nah, that was probably his agent who planted the story that he would approve a deal with the Lakers or the Pistons.

Coleman hasn't said he wants to stay, either, worrying Net general manager Willis Reed, who doesn't want to speculate, either.

"At some point, Derrick has to say whether he wants to be here," Reed said. "He owes that to the fans and the organization. If he legitimately doesn't want to be here, he has to say that. I think he's man enough to do that."

Also weighing his options is Coach Chuck Daly, whose contract will also be up in the summer of '95.

"That [losing Coleman] would be a loss of a major piece of property that you don't come by very often," Daly said. "I'd have some problems with it. I don't know how we could make it up."

We like Mike . . . but

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