Why not tournament for losers?

March 08, 1994|By Phil Jackman

Reading Time: Two Minutes.

While the have-nots of the NBA are waiting for the draft lottery and the playoffs are raging into July, why doesn't the league have them square off in a National Invitation Tournament-type finale? Look at this dynamite field of division trailers: Bullets (18-40), 76ers (20-39), Pistons (13-44), Bucks (17-40), Timberwolves (16-41), Mavericks (8-50), Clippers (19-38) and Kings (19-38).

* Perhaps it's time someone informed Gary Williams that the Baltimore and Washington newspapers don't have a say on which teams get into the NCAA tournament. After a two-point win over Virginia the other day, the Maryland coach campaigned furiously for his team's inclusion in March Madness despite its lackluster 16-10 mark. Win at least one game in the ACC tourney, fella.

Then again, some guys just don't get it and probably never will. Case in point: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach. After his club had beaten Georgetown Sunday, dropping the Hoyas to 16-9, Boeheim disclosed, "The problem [with the tournament selection process] is there are so many automatic bids out there, and Georgetown is better than a lot of those teams."

Perhaps someone should explain to the man that it's the NCAA tournament and the idea is to involve all the conferences and schools, etc., not just the power teams. Less than half the bids for the 64-team field go out to conference champs with half again going to victors of leagues that have virtually no shot at winning the whole shooting match.

* Larry Holmes, who fights the much-feared Garing Lane (11-10) on USA Network tonight (9 p.m.) has given up hope of getting another title shot at age 44: "These young tin-men champions and contenders don't want to fight anybody, and certainly not me. But I like fighting; it's a way of life for me. Only difference between now and before is I used to throw 70-80 punches a round. Now I throw 40, but they're more effective."

And why does USA continue to provide Holmes' fights? "We put Larry on," says Rob Correa, vice president for sports programming, "because he delivers eyeballs."

* It seems slightly incongruous while watching the Bullets and Lakers toss up 186 shots in a 100-mph game, which Washington ended up winning, 124-118, for each team to hold for the last shot at the conclusion of the first three periods.

* Some overwrought public relations person has the temerity to label an exhibition match between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors at the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City next month as the "tennis showdown of the century." Which explains the ticket prices, $50 and $25, for this tired show.

* They took 10 seconds off the shot clock in college hoops this season, from 45 to 35, and most folks with an opinion say it has worked out well. Go ye and do likewise, NBA.

It was the late owner of the late Syracuse Nationals, Dan Biasone, who came up with the 24-second clock for the pros through the simple expedient of putting a stopwatch to a couple of games four decades ago. That was then, this is now.

The way they play the game these days, any team approaching a violation is using a stall game.

* The statistics of the season, college hoops division, have to be these babies from Minnesota's memorable 50-point triumph over Indiana and "The General," Bob Knight: The Gophers outscored the Hoosiers 31-0 on turnover points and 28-0 on fast-break points.

* There's still some question if the Bullets are going to renew Kevin Duckworth's scholarship for next season. If the USAir Arena faithful have anything to say about it, "Duck" will be a walk-on.

* The way it works out, maybe Phil Rizzuto had to wait all those years to get elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Old-Timers Committee because he was the national spokesman for the Money Store. Good thing Jim Palmer has already made it.

* There are a couple of great streaks coming together out in Phoenix where the ever-lovable Buddy Ryan has a four-year contract to resurrect the moribund Cardinals of one of the great NFL owners ever, Bill Bidwill. Even good Ryan teams in Philadelphia couldn't win a playoff game, and the Cards haven't won in the postseason since (wow!) 1947.

* There are so many strong candidates for two alleged expansion spots expected in the NHL in 1996, they should all be let in: Portland, Ore., Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston. Talent to stock four more teams is no problem as you can plainly see by checking out the Ottawa Senators.

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