When they tipped off the 44th annual All-Star Game in Minneapolis last week, there were two sets of teammates in the starting lineups: Scottie Pippen and B. J. Armstrong of the Chicago Bulls, and Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson of the New Jersey Nets.
But while the Bulls reside at the top of the Central Division, the Nets' two All-Stars find themselves striving for a .500 season.
Baltimore fans will get a look at the Nets tonight in the last of the Washington Bullets' four games this season at the Baltimore Arena.
What New Jersey team they will see isn't certain.
Despite their talent, the Nets can fall behind the Bullets by 30 one night (as they did in a 115-100 loss earlier this season), then turn around and rout the first-place New York Knicks (as they did, 103-83, on Tuesday).
Anderson has played well, averaging 19.5 points and 9.1 assists. But as the point guard he's occasionally taken some of the blame for New Jersey's poor play, and seems determined to provide better leadership over the second half of the season.
"Making the All-Star Game is good, but I've only played well for three months," Anderson said. "You can play badly for three months, and all that can go to waste. I want to maintain on a consistent basis on this level."
In Coleman's case, the consistency question includes whether he will remain in a Nets uniform.
Two weeks ago, Coleman thought the team had agreed to a 10-year, $90 million deal that would have made him the highest-paid player in professional team sports. Instead, Nets management rejected the proposal and have directed general manager Willis Reed to seek a trade.
Coleman, who is averaging 21.0 points and 11.7 rebounds, has been criticized for not playing up to his potential every night. Yet, when asked whether long-term contracts affect the way players perform, Coleman responded: "I don't think so. I think everybody in the league works hards to improve their game."
For the 6-foot-10 Coleman -- at times the best power forward in the game -- he has until Feb. 24 to "improve" in a way to gain the lucrative contract from the Nets -- who are seeking to sign him to a shorter term deal. He has played impressively of late, getting 28 points and 17 rebounds in last night's win over the Boston.
Bullets forward Ron Anderson, signed yesterday to a 10-day contract, will get a chance to play against his ex-teammates tonight. Anderson played 11 games with the Nets at the start of the season, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds.
After being released by the Nets in December, Anderson has been playing in the CBA.
"I got spoiled with the NBA -- with all the luxuries that I had there not being in the CBA," said Anderson, a nine-year veteran.
Anderson, 35, becomes the oldest Bullet.
Walker undergoes surgery
Kenny Walker, who fractured his right cheekbone Tuesday, had successful surgery yesterday at the Washington Hospital Center.
Walker, who will be out at least two weeks, may begin doing aerobic exercises on Sunday.
F Mitchell Butler suffered a gash under his left eye last night after being hit by the swinging elbow of Minnesota C Mike Brown. Butler had eight stitches to close the cut and returned. . . . Although Magic C Shaquille O'Neal is getting star billing, Bullets fans will see two familiar faces in the movie "Blue Chips," which opens today. Rookies Calbert Cheaney and Butler are also in the movie, which stars Nick Nolte. . . . G Rex Chapman, who went on the injured list on Jan. 27 with a dislocated right ankle, worked out with the team yesterday for the first time. Chapman, who has missed 14 games, did running and shooting drills and even dunked several times.
Opponent: New Jersey Nets
Site: Baltimore Arena
Radio: WXZL (103.1 FM), WTEM (570 AM)
Outlook: The Nets, who played the Celtics last night, beat the New York Knicks on Tuesday in their first game since the All-Star break. New Jersey is led by a pair of All-Stars, F Derrick Coleman (21.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg) and G Kenny Anderson (19.5 ppg, 9.1 apg). Washington, which played at home against Minnesota last night, is led by F Don MacLean (17.8 ppg). Washington beat New
Jersey, 115-100, on Jan. 11.