NBA coaches recognize Howard's star quality Bullets' 2nd-year player named Eastern reserve

January 31, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

BOWIE -- Despite his achievements as a collegian, despite his being selected with the fourth pick in the draft, there were a few questions about Juwan Howard when he entered the NBA. Could he get his shot off? Could he carry a team? Could he be a star?

Those doubts long have been dispelled, and yesterday Howard added a little exclamation point to his career by being named to the 1996 All-Star Game, to be played Feb. 11 in San Antonio. Howard will be a reserve forward with the Eastern Conference.

Howard is one of three second-year players on the All-Star team. Grant Hill and Jason Kidd were voted by the fans as starters with the Eastern and Western teams, respectively, a process in which popularity rules. Howard was named in a vote of coaches, demonstrating the respect he has gained around the league in such a short time.

"It's really a special feeling when the coaches vote you in," Howard said. "They're the guys who know this game; they're the guys who teach this game. When the coaches choose you as a reserve, that's a true honor."

Joining Howard as reserves on the Eastern team are Vin Baker (Milwaukee Bucks), Terrell Brandon (Cleveland Cavaliers), Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks), Reggie Miller (Indiana Pacers), Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat) and Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets). They'll back up a pretty impressive starting five announced last week: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls); Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway (Orlando Magic) and Hill (Detroit Pistons). Chicago's Phil Jackson will coach the team.

The Western reserves named yesterday are David Robinson and Sean Elliott (San Antonio Spurs), Karl Malone and John Stockton (Utah Jazz), Dikembe Mutombo (Denver Nuggets), Gary Payton (Seattle SuperSonics) and Mitch Richmond (Sacramento Kings). The West, coached by Seattle's George Karl, will have a starting five of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (Houston Rockets), Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns), Shawn Kemp (Seattle) and Kidd (Dallas Mavericks).

When Bullets coach Jim Lynam was thinking last week about the possible Eastern reserves, he was confident that Howard -- who is averaging 20.0 points and 7.2 rebounds -- would get a spot.

"I told Juwan the other day that he had a very good chance, but I tried to temper my enthusiasm because I didn't want to set him up for a letdown," Lynam said. "But knowing the feeling of other coaches, I knew he was held in high regard."

Howard first learned of the honor in phone calls from Lynam and his agent, David Falk, late Monday night. But he thought they were joking.

"I was sweating when they told me," Howard said. "I told them the only way I'd believe it was when I saw it on paper."

And he began to believe it yesterday morning when, while he was filming a commercial at USAir Arena, members of the Bullets staff began to congratulate him.

"I always talked about how much I wanted to be one of the best in the league, and true enough, this has come quicker than I expected," Howard said. "I'm very happy. But I don't want this to be the last time. I want to go back."

Howard is the first member of the Bullets to be named an All-Star since 1992, when Michael Adams made the team as a reserve. Howard becomes the 21st player in Bullets history to be named an All-Star, joining Wes Unseld, Earl Monroe, Gus Johnson, Moses Malone and Elvin Hayes.

It will be the second straight year of All-Star weekend festivities for Howard, who played in the rookie game last year in Phoenix.

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