Willis Reed, a proud warrior in his days as the backbone of two New York Knicks championship teams, is not too proud to admit he made a mistake in trying to block the addition of Bernard King to the New Jersey Nets roster.
As the team's general manager, Reed advised against acquiring the former Bullets forward who had missed all of last season with a knee injury and departed Washington after an acrimonious dispute with management. But Nets coach Chuck Daly, seeking reserve firepower, pushed Reed to sign King for the waiver price.
"A guy can change his mind, can't he?" Reed told the New York Post. "I know I said I wasn't interested in signing Bernard, but a guy can say he's going to the movies, then change his mind and stay home and watch TV.
"I look at Bernard now, and I see him doing the same thing for us as Cazzie Russell did for the Knicks in the '60s -- instant offense. I appreciate his talents as a player. He's already made some big baskets for us. He gives us expert insurance."
King is averaging a modest 5.3 points in 15 minutes a game, but presents an offensive threat when Daly rests starting small forward Chris Morris.
As 'The Worm' turns
According to personnel director Billy McKinney, four teams -- the Seattle SuperSonics, Miami Heat, Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns -- made serious offers for the league's top rebounder, who has been slowed by emotional and physical problems.
"People thought we'd be in a panic to get rid of him," McKinney said, "but I said all along, unless the package made sense for the Pistons, now and in the future, a move would not be made."
The Blazers offered center Kevin Duckworth and a future No. 1 pick. The Sonics offered reserve guard Dana Barros, center Michael Cage and two top draft picks.
The Heat dangled forward Grant Long, a No. 1 and reserve guard Brian Shaw, but talks ended when the Pistons insisted on replacing Shaw with rookie Harold Miner. Rodman also refused to accept a $400,000 pay cut to fit into Miami's salary cap.
The Suns offered combinations of four players -- Negele Knight, Cedric Ceballos, Oliver Miller and Jerrod Mustaf -- and/or a No. 1. This deal fizzled when the Pistons asked to include high-scoring rookie forward Richard Dumas.
With a healthy Rodman, the Pistons believe they would still be in the playoff hunt.
As team scoring leader Joe Dumars said: "There's a thin line between being a team that is 23-30 and 30-23. We're good enough if people sacrifice. When we won two straight titles [1989 and 1990], we had guys who were strictly dedicated to winning, and that's not the case anymore. It's mind-boggling."
A master of psychology, Daly gave his Nets a less-than-gentle prod after they lost three straight games after the All-Star break.
After the Nets shot 35 percent in losing, 103-88, in Boston, Daly said: "In basketball, you can talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk. We got too comfortable with ourselves. We've got to get back to our work ethic and show some mental toughness.
"We've got young guys claiming they're tired, but I don't buy into that 'hitting-the-wall' stuff when you're a 20-year-old player," the coach said, alluding to power forward Derrick Coleman and point guard Kenny Anderson.
The Nets responded by routing the rival New York Knicks, 102-76, on Sunday.
Now, it is Daly's counterpart, Pat Riley, crying about the Knicks' "lack of focus."
Despite owning the second-best record (36-18) in the Eastern Conference, Riley is clearly concerned about his team's impotent offense. Center Patrick Ewing and shooting guard John Starks are viewed as the only legitimate scoring threats.
"What's wrong is overall lack of execution," Riley said. "Our offense has gone into the tank. We've got to start from scratch, with fundamentals."
What, no sword-swallowing?
Orlando rookie sensation Shaquille O'Neal, looking for new challenges, says his Magic contract prohibits him from skiing, sky-diving and riding a motorcycle. "But it doesn't say I can't go snow-tubing or bungee-jumping, does it?" he said.
No Tea Party
When plans to build a new Boston Garden hit financial and political snags, Stern said: "As a building of the future, Boston Garden is becoming unacceptable by NBA standards.
"If the city of Boston can't provide the Celtics with a first-class facility, we have to start thinking about where they should be relocated," Stern said.
The city got the message. Political problems were resolved, and a new arena is scheduled to open in 1995.