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He Knows True Meaning of Success : Pro basketball: After nearly dying in a car crash 10 months ago, Sacramento's Hurley is happy simply to be playing in the NBA again.

October 18, 1994|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He had a bad blister on the bottom of his foot from running and cutting so much, and a bruise on his thigh from getting kneed going through a screen in practice. It was wonderful how much they hurt.

These were basketball injuries that bothered Bobby Hurley in Honolulu during the weekend as the Sacramento Kings opened the exhibition season with two games against the Lakers. He has been waiting 10 months to be able to limp and ache for the right reasons. Ten months to return to basketball at this level.

After playing in a summer league in New Jersey, then against better competition in the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City, and now better competition still with the Kings in training camp and the exhibition season, Hurley is on the verge of completing one of the greatest comebacks in sports history. That has become so obvious that the only question is how far he will come back.

His injuries from a Dec. 12 car crash in Sacramento were life-threatening. He survived a torn trachea that resulted in eight hours of surgery--"We can't tell you how unusual it was because most people end up in in the coroner's office," one of his doctors said--not to mention broken ribs and bones in his shoulders and back and torn knee ligaments. Medical personnel were worried whether he would leave the hospital, not whether he would play again.

But Hurley, although he doesn't figure to start yet at point guard for the Kings, a job they planned for him to take into the next century after he set the NCAA assist record at Duke, will be on the roster opening night, not the injured list. And he might play 15 minutes or so early on as Spud Webb's backup.

"He's looking as confident, or better, as he did right up to the injury," King Coach Garry St. Jean said. "I think he looks better now."

In his play or confidence?

"Everything," St. Jean said.

Added Nick Van Exel, Hurley's counterpart in the two opening games, "I think right now, coming back from an injury like that and from where he was last season, I think he's better. He was in control out there, he got the guys in the right spot and he handled the ball well."

Hurley says he is coming along well and that even with nagging foot and thigh problems, he is "pretty solid right now."

To be sure, he has more strength and stamina, going 22 minutes Friday in the opener. He is also getting much better at driving hard to the left, another encouraging sign because the shoulder injury lingered the longest and had taken away so much strength in the arm and hand that he had trouble controlling the ball in traffic as he had before, resulting in an inability to penetrate down that side.

"I feel comfortable going either way," said Hurley, who looked good Friday while scoring 21 points but was limited to eight minutes the next night because of the blister. "Right to left is always better for me. My right hand, dribbling-wise, is better and I like to go right to left more, but I'm still able to get back to my right hand going left to right, so I'm pretty happy with the way that is."

That and other things.

"I'm just happy to be out here and competing and having a decent game," he said. "It's a good feeling."

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