HARTFORD, Conn. — The NBA's second-tallest player took a giant leap Tuesday night toward gainful employment during the coming season.
Chuck Nevitt used all of his 89 inches and then some in impressing Laker Coach Pat Riley, not to mention many of the 15,134 who showed up at the Civic Center for the second of four exhibition games between the Boston Celtics and Lakers.
And although the Lakers lost, 110-109, (their first defeat to Boston since June 5) and Riley wasn't pleased with the way his team ran the offense, he did like what he saw from Nevitt.
"I was very pleased with Chuck Nevitt," Riley said. "At 7-5, he was out there doing everything he could."
Nevitt, who lost the NBA height lead to 7-7 rookie Manute Bol, had some truly intriguing numbers. He had played only one minute in the Lakers' first two exhibition games and had, fittingly, one blocked shot to show for his time.
But against the Celtics, Nevitt played 17 minutes and had 9 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. This is indeed heady stuff for a player whose career high in regulation games is eight points--and one who played only 59 minutes in 11 games for the Lakers last season.
But if Riley is going to keep three centers--"and I hope he does," Nevitt said--the North Carolina State graduate who has been waived four times in his career (once by the Lakers) hopes there's room for him at the end of the Forum bench.
"I felt pretty comfortable out there," Nevitt said. "I know what they're looking for from me. They want rebounding and some kind of defensive threat. And, hey, if I get a layup, I'm going to take that, too. I can usually make those."
Nevitt made 4 of 6 from the field, which made him an anomaly among his teammates. The Lakers shot 39.5% from the field, the chief bricklayers being Maurice Lucas (1 of 6) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (0 of 5 after an 11-of-12 outing Sunday.) And then there was Mike McGee, who in the two meetings with Boston has managed 25 shots and no assists.
The Lakers also had 27 turnovers, including eight by Magic Johnson. But the Lakers' wondrous guard left fans buzzing with a 24-point third quarter (he had 33 in the game) with the only other Laker basket coming from Eric Dickerson look-alike A.C. Green.
"I can do that. It's just that I don't do that," Magic said of his George Gervin imitation.
The Lakers shot only 38% in the third quarter, and Boston took an 88-86 lead entering the final 12 minutes. The Lakers never overtook the Celtics in the final quarter, though they had the ball in the final 10 seconds, only to see Byron Scott's pass stolen.
"We started the game with a turnover and ended it with a turnover," Riley said. "A sloppy game. But I can't fault the effort on both sides. I think the intense effort created a lot of the sloppiness."