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Lakers Easily Polish Off Pearl, Nets

November 22, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

The nickname has Hall of Fame credentials.

Say The Pearl, and a basketball fan with a memory immediately thinks of the herky-jerky dribble, bobbing head and spinning moves of Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, the former guard for the Bullets and Knicks.

That Pearl celebrated his 42nd birthday Friday night.

The National Basketball Assn.'s newest pearl, Dwayne Washington, late of Syracuse University, made his Forum debut on the same night, and it wasn't pretty.

It was almost over as soon as it started, too, for the New Jersey Nets' No. 1 draft choice, who lasted 1 minute 59 seconds before being yanked to the bench.

By that time, the Lakers had made their first four shots, were leading, 9-2, and were well on their way to a 111-95 win, their eighth straight victory after a season-opening loss to the Houston Rockets.

Only James Worthy, who scored a game-high 26 points, played as many as 30 minutes for the Lakers as a Forum crowd of 14,918 sat back, just as the Laker starters did, to watch Frank Brickowski and A.C Green come off the bench and score 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Net Coach Dave Wohl, the former Laker assistant, also was watching, though with considerably less mirth, as his team lost its fifth straight game to drop to 2-9, the worst record in the NBA.

Wohl did not place the burden of that start on his unpolished Pearl, although Nets veterans reportedly did some finger-pointing in that direction during a recent team meeting.

The Nets, leaderless since Micheal Ray Richardson's career disappeared in a cocaine haze last winter, are asking a lot of a rookie point guard to run their show on the floor.

"It's the toughest position in the league," Wohl said. "The only exceptions I can think of who could come right in and do it are Isiah (Thomas) and Magic (Johnson)."

Washington eventually played 22 minutes and scored eight points for the Nets, who got as close as five points in the third quarter but couldn't keep pace with the Laker break.

"He (Washington) didn't push the ball up the floor the first couple of times and made a defensive mistake," said Wohl, explaining why he replaced Washington with Leon Wood, the former Cal State Fullerton star with a shaky defensive reputation of his own.

"I told both of my guys (Washington and Wood) that if they made mental mistakes early, they would come out," Wohl said. "I can't let them slide through mental mistakes."

Asked what impact the quick hook might have on Washington's confidence, Wohl said:

"That's his problem. He's got to deal with it. And the best way to deal with it is to know what he's doing out there. . . . If he can't do that, he won't be a very good player in this league."

Worthy, who arrived in the NBA without the glitter of the nickname but with the same kind of expectations, sympathized with the Net rookie.

"People have high expectations of you in this league," Worthy said. "He has to realize this isn't the same as the collegiate ballgame.

Worthy said there are two ways Washington can respond.

"Either it will make him a better player, or he'll hide under a rock," Worthy said.

It didn't help any that the most-nicknamed Net of them all, Darryl (Chocolate Thunder) Dawkins, had slipped in his shower at home, reinjured his back and is out indefinitely.

With Dawkins missing, Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, despite picking up his third foul midway through the second quarter and sitting out the entire fourth quarter, pulled down 10 rebounds, his third straight game in which he has reached double figures in rebounding.

The Nets, who had a total of 48 shots blocked in their previous five games, had 10 blocked by the Lakers, two each by Brickowski and Wes Matthews.

"I don't think the Lakers have dropped off at all (in ability)," Wohl said. "Magic's at the absolute top of his game, Worthy is at the top of his game, Byron is playing well and Coop (Michael Cooper) is Coop.

"They're the most athletic team in the league in terms of sheer talent."

Worthy is reserving judgment.

"We haven't had a great offensive game yet," he said. "And we still have to go back East and play some good teams. The true test is still to come."

For Washington, there will be more tests, too.

"There's a lot of pressure," he said. "A lot of people are looking at me, and I'm struggling. We're all struggling. As a team, we've got to fight out of this."

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