From Hawaii, Nash can see playoff paradise


With his team on the skids recently, losing 11 of its past 1 games, Washington Bullets general manager John Nash has been noticeably absent from the sidelines. It isn't that he has abandoned the team -- it's that he has been evaluating college talent at the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii.

And in the land of sunshine and beautiful beaches, Nash struggled through the streak as well, watching Washington's games via satellite.

"We're up against it," Nash said. "It's been a tough experience from the owner on down. This is a situation when on Nov. 17 [day of the Chris Webber trade] we expected to make significant progress in the near future, and that progress has been severely retarded by injuries."

Still, Nash is hopeful. Despite the injuries to Webber (separated shoulder), Don MacLean (knee tendinitis) and Rex Chapman (sore groin muscle), the Bullets are only two games in the loss column behind the Boston Celtics, who hold the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The bad news is that there are five teams between the Bullets, the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and the Celtics. But Nash doesn't see that as being an impossible task.

"I really believe we can be a very good team with all the pieces in place," Nash said of the playoffs. "Our schedule is not as difficult on paper from about the second week of January on, as opposed to the previous five weeks.

"Facing [mainly Eastern Conference teams] helps you take hold of your own situation and have an impact on your playoff drive."

Dog show

Almost from the start, Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill has taken the NBA by storm, being called a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year after playing just a month of the season.

But the Big Dog, Milwaukee Bucks forward Glenn Robinson, guarantees he'll make an impressive showing before it's all over.

After missing training camp with a long holdout in his failed bid to become the NBA's first $100 million player, Robinson quietly has put together an impressive stretch. He is averaging a team-leading 19.1 points and is second in rebounding (5.8).

Despite the improvement, Robinson said there's still some animosity over his holdout.

"I missed camp and went through all this stuff with contract negotiations. They don't want me to succeed," Robinson said. "Grant came in on time. In a lot of people's eyes, it's like I'm the bad guy and Grant is the good guy. . . . It's everywhere I go."

And in every arena. In All-Star balloting last week, Robinson was ninth among forwards, and almost 300,000 votes behind Hill.

"I really don't have anything to prove other than I want to win some more ballgames," Robinson said.

Of Rookie of the Year, he said, "Well, it seems to me when I pick up a newspaper or watch TV, everybody is already predicting Grant Hill will win. I think as the season goes on, I'm going to get better and better."

Lashing out

On Dec. 13, Celtics coach Chris Ford was forced to the sidelines to have surgery to remove a polyp on his colon. But that didn't stop him from taking time out from his recovery to go ballistic over his team.

Described as looking drawn, Ford visited practice last week and lashed out at the players. At the time, the Celtics had lost three straight and 10 of their previous 13. Ford ripped the team so hard that a concerned M. L. Carr, Celtics vice president, had to urge Ford to take a seat.

"I was surprised," guard Dee Brown said. "He came back screaming and getting on guys. He's here; you know that now."

The day after, the Celtics lost to the Chicago Bulls.

"Very difficult to watch," Ford said of the game. "Kathy [his wife] had to leave the room a couple of times. It's been building for the two weeks I've been away. . . . Guys get hit and banged, and they do all kinds of whining. That kind of thing carries into games."

Pistons points need tuneup

It appears that neither Lindsey Hunter nor Allan Houston -- both first-round picks of the Detroit Pistons in 1993 -- has fulfilled his promise.

Hunter was having difficulty running the team before breaking his right foot last month. Houston was given the starting point guard spot, but was yanked after four starts.

Detroit signed Negele Knight, who was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this season, to fill the void.

Around the league

Chicago Bulls rookie Dickey Simpkins gave out gag Christmas gifts to his teammates last week. To Will Perdue, who's wearing a protective clear mask, he gave a bottle of Windex; to guards Steve Kerr and B. J. Armstrong, Nerf basketball hoops so "they'd know the feeling of dunking." . . . As if the situation in New Jersey couldn't get worse, guard Kenny Anderson missed a practice last week, the day after being benched the entire fourth quarter of a game against the New York Knicks. The night he was AWOL, Anderson was spotted at a Manhattan strip bar. The guard said personal problems, not the benching, led him to miss the practice.

Quote of the week

From Los Angeles Clippers coach Bill Fitch on Lenny Wilkens, who likely will get his 938th win this week to break Red Auerbach's record:

"If Lenny had played any defense at all," said Fitch, who coached Wilkens for two years in Cleveland, "he'd be chasing my record and not Red's."

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