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The NBA / Sam McManis : Motta-Aguirre Problem Isn't Their First

December 24, 1985|SAM MCMANIS

Opinions vary about who to blame for the latest tiff between volatile Dallas Maverick Coach Dick Motta and enigmatic star forward Mark Aguirre, but it seems clear that the two will never work in harmony.

Aguirre was suspended for two games by Motta last Thursday night at Atlanta because Aguirre refused to re-enter the game after being benched midway through the second quarter of an easy Maverick win.

It seems that Aguirre had flattened Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins under the Dallas basket and, rather than hustle back on defense and help prevent an Atlanta basket, he stayed behind and helped Wilkins to his feet.

At the next break, Motta angrily yanked Aguirre from the game. Aguirre felt there was nothing wrong with helping an opponent to his feet, even if play had not been halted, and decided to stay seated the remainder of the game as a form of protest.

"I ran into Dominique very hard," Aguirre said. "I thought I had really hurt him. . . . For me to be snatched out of the game just for picking someone up is really disturbing to me, and I can't play under those conditions."

Motta's answer to that was almost identical to the response he had after Maverick forward Dale Ellis pulled the same you-don't-understand-me, I-won't-play number three weeks ago.

"He (Aguirre) said he didn't want to play anymore," Motta said. "I like guys to play. I've never begged anyone."

In his 18 years as an NBA coach--the last six at Dallas--Motta has been anything but sympathetic toward his players. He admits that he occasionally likes to put players in his "dog house," and he tends to treat rookies like, well, dogs.

Aguirre, a talented small forward who averaged 29 and 25 points a game, respectively, the last two seasons, has gained a reputation as player whose drive and attitude do not match his physical ability.

It was not surprising, therefore, that Aguirre and Motta would clash. Certainly, this wasn't the first spat in their five-year relationship.

It was a year ago last week in Milwaukee that Motta accused Aguirre of not hustling. The men squared off in the locker room in front of Maverick players and the media.

According to United Press International, Motta and Aguirre met for more than three hours Monday night, after which Motta said Aguirre would return to the team immediately.

"I know I was wrong in some of the things I said (Thursday)," Aguirre said last Friday from his Dallas home. "I'm ready to come back and play. If (Motta) told me to get on a plane tonight, I'd be on it.

"If he is going to snatch me, I'm going to have to find a way to deal with it. If I adjust to that, which I know I will, then that will be over with."

In Philadelphia, the word is that 76er General Manager Pat Williams recently called Clipper General Manager Carl Scheer and suggested this one-for-one trade: 76er reserve guard Leon Wood for Clipper reserve guard Franklin Edwards.

Scheer turned down the deal, since Edwards is playing considerably better than Wood.

Still, it is ironic in several respects that Williams would make such a proposal.

First, the 76ers originally had Edwards on their roster but decided not to re-sign him before last season because they had drafted Cal State Fullerton's Wood, who commands a salary in line with other first-round picks. Edwards was picked up by the Clippers late last season and now makes a guaranteed $100,000.

Also interesting is the fact that the Clippers could have had Wood all along. The Clippers had the eighth overall pick in the 1984 draft and picked Lancaster Gordon over Wood (who went ninth overall) because then-Clipper Coach Jim Lynam didn't think highly of Wood.

So where did Lynam end up coaching as an assistant this season?


A Christmas Story: Children in 10 Southern states who called a Dial Santa telephone service one day last week received some good tips indeed, but not from Santa.

Examples: Take the Knicks and the points over Indiana, and Dallas should cover the five-point spread against Atlanta.

It seems that telephone lines were crossed and kids reached an NBA betting service instead of hearing about Santa's latest activities.

Former Utah Jazz forward John Drew, waived last season after two bouts with substance abuse, scored 41 points in his Continental Basketball Assn. debut. Several NBA teams supposedly have called the Wyoming Wildcatters, expressing interest in signing Drew.

The NBA has tentatively pushed back the opening date of the 1986-87 regular season to Oct. 31. That means the regular season will not end until April 19.

Wonder how hot the Boston Garden gets in July.

Interesting statistics or merely trivia?:

--Dominique Wilkins, who missed an astounding 1,038 shots last season, already had attempted 555 shots by the end of last week (making only 44%), 352 more than his closest teammate.

--The New York Post recently conducted a telephone poll asking readers to name the NBA's all-time great player. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the choice of 54.9%, Wilt Chamberlain second with 32.6% and Bill Russell a surprisingly distant third with 12.5%.

Finally, this from Sacramento Bee columnist Joe Hamelin, writing about the Clippers' consistent chaos over the years: "The only people left from those (early) clubs are the owner, Donald T. Sterling and the radio announcer, Ralph Lawler. One thing should be obvious to Sterling by now. Everything has to be Ralph's fault."

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