The circuitous route of Michael Adams' professional basketball career took another good turn yesterday. The Washington Bullets guard was named to the NBA All-Star Game.
"I can think of a lot of players who were down and out and graduated from the CBA to the NBA," said Adams, who was named by commissioner David Stern to replace Larry Bird, who is injured, on the East squad. "But I might be the only one who ever made it to the All-Star Game."
Waived three times and traded twice during his six NBA seasons, in addition to playing a year in the U.S. Basketball League and Continental Basketball Association, Adams now finds himself competing among the league's elite.
Until the final weeks of fan voting, Adams was in a starting spot alongside Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, but he was overtaken by the Detroit Pistons' Isiah Thomas. Adams was also bypassed by the conference coaches who selected the seven additions to the roster.
"After not getting picked by the fans and coaches, I kind of forgot about it," Adams said. "But getting chosen by the commissioner is a special honor. I feel great right now, and I've got to try and hustle up some tickets for my relatives."
Adams said making the All-Star team was "a sense of accomplishment. My first big achievement was just making it to the NBA, and this is like making a higher team.
"I only wanted to play in the league," he said. "I never envisioned becoming a starter in the league or playing in an All-Star Game. Those were unrealistic expectations."
Adams was released twice by the Bullets in 1986 before being traded to Denver the following year with forward Jay Vincent in exchange for Darrell Walker and Mark Alarie. But Washington, desperately seeking a point guard, reclaimed him this June by sending the Nuggets their lottery pick.
Adams leads the team in scoring (20.5) and assists (8.3), but has endured a roller-coaster type season.
He got off to a lightning start, averaging 28.0 points in the first 12 games to challenge for the league scoring lead. But, in mid-November, Adams sprained his right wrist, then fractured a finger on his left hand and had struggled with his shooting and ball-handling.
This week, Adams appeared to regain his confidence and shooting touch, scoring 24 in an overtime loss to New York and 38 in Sunday's victory over Orlando before being held to 16 in last night's 115-99 loss in Charlotte.
"I'm getting my shots in the flow again," he said. "I'm trying to get back to where I was at the start of the season."
For Adams, the big break in his pro career came when he was traded by the Bullets to the Denver Nuggets in 1987 and became then-coach Doug Moe's pet project.
"I finally got with a coaching system that allowed me to show my skills without being held back," he said. "Moe just told me, 'Show me what you can do,' and it worked out well."
But Adams did not gain national attention until last season when Paul Westhead installed his run-and-gun offense in Denver, where Adams averaged 26.5 points and 10.5 assists.