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Nuggets, Moe Saw a New Shade of Green : Lakers' Second-Year Power Forward a Key Player in Sweep of Denver

May 03, 1987|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

A.C. Green doesn't need any more reminders of that two-handed slam dunk he missed last weekend against the Denver Nuggets.

For one thing, there were national TV cameras present to capture the moment--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar throwing a full-court football pass to Green, who storms down the lane all alone, rises majestically for the shot . . . only to see it rejected by the rim and carom into the seats.

"As soon as I got home there was a message on my answering machine," Green said Saturday. "It was my mom, who said, 'That's OK, she still loves me.'

"My little nephews were outside playing--I might get off easy with them. My two older brothers probably won't talk to me. They're always telling me to dunk. They might get over it.

"And, my teammates are always reminding me."

Green can take the teasing, however. It's still better than last season, when those same teammates were telling him not to shoot at all.

"Last year, we'd put him in the corner and tell him, 'Don't move,' " Magic Johnson said. "Now we're looking for him. We get on him when he doesn't shoot it."

And Green, whose playoff contribution last season was negligible, has responded. The power forward, who averaged 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in the playoffs as a rookie and didn't play a minute in the Houston series, outscored both Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Lakers' three-game sweep of the Nuggets.

Green averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds a game, including a 20-point output in Game 1. In the series clincher, Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson did not score a point in the first 17:46. Green, however, scored 11 of the Lakers' first 13 points and finished with 18 in a 140-103 blowout.

For the series, Green made his 18 points and 10 rebounds in just over 26 minutes a game, well above his regular-season averages of 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. Johnson averaged 17.7 points against Denver, Abdul-Jabbar 16.7.

"Green's the guy who killed us," Denver Coach Doug Moe said.

And Johnson went so far as to call Green "the key right now."

In the playoffs, of course, teams are even more inclined than usual to ignore Green and concentrate on the Lakers' big guns--Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. It becomes Green's task, Coach Pat Riley said, to play a "parasitic" role.

"Kareem, Magic and James are always going to draw the bloodsuckers," Riley said. "And you just have to take advantage of that."

Green has become much more adept at reacting to double-teams on the Lakers' big three, Riley said, and finding the open lane to take a pass.

"You really have to make yourself available for scoring passes and not just clearing out of there," Riley said. "When there is a double-team, we want a guy working free to get a shot, or make the first pass to set up another shot."

Twice in the opening moments last Wednesday, Green snaked down the baseline from the opposite side of the court to receive passes from Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson and score baskets.

"He's a great catcher," Riley said. "And he knows how to go up for shots under the basket--sometimes from behind the backboard. Those are not layups--those are tough shots. Plus, he gets fouled."

It was Riley's decision to keep the wraps on Green offensively--and to play Maurice Lucas ahead of Green against the Rockets.

"We got Maurice Lucas for his power and his experience," Riley said. "And I wasn't going to split minutes.

"A.C.'s mental approach is very different this season. Last year, he was totally deferring. He never looked to shoot the ball and his offensive moves were very indecisive.

"That was my fault. He was told by me to rebound and play defense. Now, however, his confidence is so amazing."

Last season, Green said he was experiencing everything for the first time--including the playoffs. "Being a new guy, I was just happy to be around," he said.

This spring, he'd like to make an impact, fulfilling the potential Laker General Manager Jerry West recognized when he made Green the 23rd pick in the 1985 draft.

He literally screams for the chance--or haven't you noticed his full-throated roars when he goes up for an offensive rebound?

"That probably happens when I get totally intense and into the game," Green said, almost abashedly. "That's my guess. I'm not really sure."

Said Riley with a smile: "I'd prefer a good, hard grunt, but he's just making a great effort. . . . and exhaling."

Laker Notes

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