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Today's NBA All-Star Game Will Be Homecoming of Sorts for 3 Players

February 07, 1988|BILL BARNARD | Associated Press

CHICAGO — Each in his own way, Michael Jordan, Mark Aguirre and Glenn "Doc" Rivers will make today's NBA All-Star game a homecoming.

Jordan, who appears to be headed for his second consecutive scoring title with more than 33 points per game, has not played to that standard in two previous All-Star appearances, scoring a total of 18 points.

But as the Chicago Bulls' brightest star and only representative in today's game, Jordan has a chance to duplicate the feat of Tom Chambers, who scored 34 points and won Most Valuable Player honors last year in front of the home crowd in Seattle.

"What I look for at the All-Star game is a good game and a good time," Jordan said. "I'm going to enjoy playing in Chicago. I look forward to playing on my homecourt because I won't have to travel that weekend."

Jordan, who got 1.12 million votes in balloting to determine the starters for the Eastern and Western Conference, outpolled the Los Angeles Lakers' Magic Johnson, with 1.02 million votes, as the most popular All-Star.

"I'd like to show the home crowd my appreciation for making me the top vote-getter," Jordan said, but he added that he wasn't eager to match Chambers' feat.

"I don't quite want to have that kind of game," Jordan said. "I'd just like to win and have a good performance."

Aguirre and Rivers also will be returning home, but to their childhood homes, not their professional homes. Their weekend homecomings, however, will be decidedly different.

Aguirre, the fifth-leading scorer in the NBA, is a Western Conference reserve. Close friends with Johnson and Detroit's Isiah Thomas, another Chicago native and an Eastern Conference starter, Aguirre chose Saturday in Chicago as his wedding day, with his buddies in mind.

Aguirre said he and his bride-to-be, Angela Bowman, "knew Earvin (Magic), Isiah and some of the other guys would be there, so it seemed a good time to get everybody together. I didn't want to wait until the summer. I was going to go see the game, even if I wasn't picked.

"But I'm getting married, I'm playing in the All-Star game and I'm playing in my hometown, all in one weekend. It will be a weekend for me like no other."

Rivers will be in Chicago along with Coach Mike Fratello and Atlanta teammate Dominique Wilkins, an Eastern Conference starter at forward. Fratello broke Boston Coach K.C. Jones' four-year hold on the All-Star coach's berth by having the East's best record on Jan. 24.

"Being an All-Star is on everyone's mind," Rivers said. "I have no thoughts of a Chambers-like performance to become MVP. Just making the team is okay. It's more important to me to be a winner, win a championship. If I didn't have that drive, I'd never be an All-Star.

For Rivers, making his first All-Star appearance in his fifth NBA season, Sunday's game will be a symbol of vindication for the NBA teams who didn't believe he was good enough to be a first-round draft pick.

Five years ago, on NBA draft day in 1983, Rivers had one of the worst days in Chicago.

"I thought I'd be a first-round pick and my sources -- who obviously weren't very good sources -- said I'd be first-rounder," Rivers said. "Even some teams had told me I would be a first-rounder. I sat in a hotel room in Chicago with Derek Harper, who was picked 12th by Dallas, and became more and more disappointed and upset. When I was finally picked 31st, I was crying. I don't know if I was crying because I was mad at the teams for not taking me or just disappointed that I wasn't taken. But being drafted 31st made me work harder.

"When I got to Atlanta, it was encouraging when they said they were going to a youth movement. Then, I went to training camp and there were eight guards trying for five spots, and six of them were veterans. But I made it and by middle of rookie year I was starting and felt I could be a good ballplayer. Coach Fratello was always behind me, saying I could be an All-Star someday."

Along with Wilkins, Thomas and Jordan, the East starters will be Larry Bird of Boston and Moses Malone of the Washington Bullets.

Rivers, Maurice Cheeks of Philadelphia and Boston's Danny Ainge are the East reserves at guard. New York's Patrick Ewing and Brad Daugherty of Cleveland are the backup centers and Charles Barkley of Philadelphia and Kevin McHale of Boston are reserve forwards.

For the West, Johnson and Lafayette "Fat" Lever of Denver will start at guard, Houston's Akeem Olajuwon at center and Utah's Karl Malone and Denver's Alex English at forwards.

The West reserves are Aguirre, Xavier McDaniel of Seattle and the Lakers' James Worthy at forward, the Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Donaldson of Dallas at center and Portland's Clyde Drexler and Alvin Robertson of San Antonio at guard. Abdul-Jabbar will be making his 17th All-Star appearance, four more than any other player in NBA history.

But the game could belong to the players making their homecoming trips.

"There's a real Chicago connection for this game," Rivers said. "Three of the five guards from the West are from Chicago. Isiah, Maurice Cheeks and myself are from Chicago and of course, Jordan plays there. It should be a real special game for the fans in Chicago and guys who are from there. A lot of us played with each other in summer and against each other, and now we're in the NBA together. It's extremely special for everybody to be in All-Star game together."

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