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Nuggets' 5-10 Adams Stands Tall in the NBA

December 11, 1988|BILL BARNARD | Associated Press

Michael Adams is more than a triple threat for the Denver Nuggets.

In less than one season with the team, he has established himself as the most prolific 3-point shooter in the NBA. Going into the weekend, he had made at least one 3-pointer in 61 consecutive games.

But that isn't all that makes him the most valuable 5-foot-10 player in basketball.

"The 3-pointers give him publicity, but it's the fast pace he brings to our game that makes us successful," Coach Doug Moe said. "We need that tempo to survive. We couldn't play a halfcourt game with the guys we have."

Adams in the open court is the NBA's closest thing to a waterbug flittering across the surface of a quiet pond. He weaves his way downcourt, often leaving defenders flailing to keep pace.

The result is often another basket for the Nuggets, who are scoring 130 points per game, a pace that no team has ever sustained for an entire season.

"When you're 5-10, you have to have speed and quickness to make it in the NBA," Adams said. "When you play the game freely like we do, it gives you the confidence to create things. It makes the game fun when you get a shot up every 10 seconds."

"That little guy is tough to guard," New York Knicks coach Rick Pitino said. "I wouldn't want to chase him around all night."

Denver's free-lance offense also creates opportunities for Adams to shoot the 3-pointer that is making him famous.

Adams leaves the classic shooting styles to Dale Ellis, Larry Bird and others. When he lets the ball fly, he looks more like a shot-putter than a basketball player.

Despite his unorthodox style, Adams, who made only 28 of 105 3-point attempts in his first two years in the NBA, has his consecutive-game streak at nearly three times the previous record and still counting.

Danny Ainge of Boston had 23 consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer last year. When that streak stopped, Adams already was close behind, but he passed Ainge's record and kept going.

"I practiced three's a lot before I came to Denver, but I never got a chance to shoot it in games," Adams said. "The system here allows it. The way we play, I should be able to at least make one or two a game and get a long streak going.

"To play for a guy who actually wants me to shoot them is like a dream come true."

Moe said Adams' 3-point strategy is to simply wait until someone fails to guard him on one of his madcap forays down the court.

"I don't tell him when to shoot it; he takes it when the time is right," Moe said. "There's really no bad time for him to shoot it. I remember one time last season he was 10 feet behind the line and I told him he was getting a little carried away. But he uses good judgment. I have no complaints about him."

"At my size, I can't shoot over anyone, so it's no surprise that I just shoot when I'm open," Adams said. "There are always guys running at me when I start to shoot, but I can't control that."

Adams said that because he is simply extending a record he already holds, he doesn't feel the pressure to keep it going.

Typically, he makes a 3-pointer early in a game, slows down in the middle and then adds a few more down the stretch. He is averaging two 3-point baskets per game, a pace that would also shatter Ainge's single-season record of 148.

On Tuesday at New York, Adams shot, and made, his first 3-pointer just 25 seconds into the game. He finished with four and scored a career-high 35 points, only to miss a free throw that would have tied the score with no time on the clock.

"Early in a game, people aren't guarding you as closely and since we're a fast-break team, I get the opportunities," Adams said. "The toughest part of the streak was when I was trying to break Ainge's record. Now it's basically a matter of extending my own record. But I don't think about how far it might go."

Adams' backcourt mate, Lafayette "Fat" Lever, said the Nuggets love to see Adams take 3-point shots.

"What he's done is a unique feat," Lever said. "We look for him to take it. It not only builds momentum in our offense, but we like to see the streak keep going."

Adams was acquired before the start of last season, along with Jay Vincent, for Darrell Walker and Mark Alarie.

Vincent was one of the NBA's best sixth men, but the deal would have been a steal for the Nuggets even without him.

Moe tries to keep a straight face when he says he wanted Adams.

"I'm a genius, so of course I knew the way he would play for us," Moe said with a grin. "Actually (assistant coach) Alan Bristow told me he liked Mike. I said to forget it. When we got him, we didn't even know he could shoot threes. The purpose in getting him was just to run the ball up the court and keep the tempo fast.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with him."

Nor could NBA fans who like a triple threat.

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