While Michael Jordan was breezing to the scoring title last season with the highest average (37.1) in more than two decades, there were a few detractors.
They thought the 6-foot 6-inch guard was so busy putting points on the board that he neglected to play the rest of the game. It was a bad rap then and it is even more so now.
The fourth-year pro out of the University of North Carolina is developing into just about the best all-round player in the National Basketball Assn. At 24, he excels in every phase of the sport.
Jordan's talents were displayed on national television Saturday at Chicago as he led the improving Bulls to a 112-103 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Jordan scored 18 of his 44 points in the last quarter to hold off a rally by the Rockets, stop their three-game winning streak and give the Bulls a 14-6 record. Jordan did much more than just score the most points. He had 9 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocked shots, and caused much consternation among the Rockets.
On offense, it is well documented that Jordan can score in every way, jump shot, drive or rebound. He is also a fine passer and often outrebounds taller players.
But it is Jordan's defensive skills that are moving the young, inexperienced Bulls toward championship contention. As a defender, he plays much the way former Laker great Jerry West did.
Jordan, as West did, uses his long arms to deflect passes and disrupt the opponent's offense. He also is adept at blocking shots from behind, the way West did. His quickness enables him to steal the ball often. Except when he's helping double team, he is also a tough defender one-and-one.
He demoralized Purvis Short, the man he was guarding Saturday. Short, who usually fires the ball accurately and often, got off only 8 shots in 29 minutes.
Jordan's weakness is that he can't play 48 minutes. He took his first rest Saturday late in the first quarter after driving the Bulls to a 12-point lead. While Jordan sat for four minutes, the Bulls, bewildered on offense without their star, managed only three points, and, when Jordan returned, the lead was down to five points.
Jordan, who had 31 points in the second half, finished off the Rockets with a flourish, getting the Bulls last 10 points.
"One thing is for sure--the Bulls are no longer a fluke," Jordan told the Associated Press. "Our day has come, and I think the rest of the league has learned to respect us."
Denver 131, Philadelphia 121--Although his Nuggets give up about 112 points per game, Coach Doug Moe insists they are a good defensive team.
"We just don't know it yet," said Moe after the Nuggets "held" the 76ers to 121 points at Philadelphia.
"We played 48 tough minutes and did not allow the 76ers to set up. We were very active and caused a lot of turnovers."
It also helped that forwards Jay Vincent and Alex English were hot. Vincent scored a season-high 33 points, and English had 30 as the Nuggets improved to 12-7.
Portland 108, Indiana 101--Clyde Drexler, ejected from Friday night's game at Milwaukee for losing his cool, was calm and collected in this game at Indianapolis.
Drexler scored 28 points, and Steve Johnson added 27 as the Trail Blazers overcame the hot shooting of Reggie Miller to salvage the final game in their four-game Eastern trip.
Miller came off the bench to sink 8 of 9 shots and score 17 points in 24 minutes.
Detroit 124, New York 96--The Knicks couldn't make it close at Pontiac, Mich., even after gaining a decided advantage when Sidney Green and the Pistons' Isiah Thomas were ejected for fighting in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Pistons' Adrian Dantley scored 9 of his 25 points in a 17-6 third-quarter rally that broke the game open.
Washington 122, New Jersey 107--Bernard King came off the bench at East Rutherford, N.J., to score 32 points in 32 minutes as the Bullets handed the Nets their 11th consecutive defeat.
San Antonio 129, Phoenix 110--Despite a 34-point performance by the Suns' Larry Nance at San Antonio, the Suns were never in danger.
Alvin Robertson scored 17 of his 30 points in the first quarter to help give the Spurs a lead they never lost.
Utah 127, Golden State 93--Mel Turpin came off the bench at Salt Lake City to score 22 points and help lead the Jazz to an easy victory.
The Jazz led, 84-47, in the third quarter and coasted to the victory.