SI Vault
Jack McCallum
February 10, 1992
Wishful Thinking?
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February 10, 1992

The Nba

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Donaldson also has been relentlessly booed during games, and the nickname Scissorhands, hung on him by Dallas columnist Skip Bayless in reference to Donaldson's less-than-proficient skill in catching the ball, has caught on. Donaldson, who is unhappy with his lack of playing time, figures to be gone one way or another next season, because he will be an unrestricted free agent.

Until things soured this season, the 12-year veteran was always one of the most popular Mavericks, not to mention one of the league's most interesting off-the-court personalities. He is the majority owner of the Sydney Wave, a team in the Australian Baseball League. He owns a rehabilitation and physical therapy business in Mill Creek, Wash., and takes off-season courses at the University of Washington in pursuit of a master's degree in physical therapy. "I'm still not qualified to work at my own clinic," Donaldson says. "All I can do is stop by to take out the garbage or bring in lunch. They're very happy when I show up."

He was a partner in a fur-coat business in Seattle too, until the day in Dallas when a representative of the Society for Texas Animal Rights gave him a piece of her mind. He listened closely, concluded that she made sense, promptly sold his interest and is now a member of the society. He publishes a magazine for singles called Eligibles (of which he is one) and is pursuing his blue belt in taekwondo. He does most of his own cooking, plays the saxophone, immerses himself in the literature of nutrition (he takes about 100 vitamins and supplements daily) and rarely turns down a speaking engagement at a school or community group.

But the Mavs' dissatisfaction with Donaldson has been simmering for a while. One complaint is that over the years he has unnecessarily roughed up a few of his teammates in practice yet no longer displays that same aggressiveness toward the opposition during games. Donaldson doesn't deny having a taste for the physical—and even laughingly admits to the nickname Dukes—but says that he has acted defensively in confrontations with his teammates.

The Mavs' rebuilding campaign will start in a big way after this season, and Donaldson, who says he wants to play at least two or three more years, might consider preparing a classified ad:

AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY—animal-loving, saxophone-playing, team-owning, vitamin-swallowing, martial-arts-practicing center. Physical tendencies must be properly channeled.

Shaquille? Maybe No Deal
Ever since it was determined that the U.S. Olympic basketball team would include at least one, and possibly two, collegians, LSU All-America Shaquille O'Neal has been considered a virtual shoo-in. But that isn't the case. There are rumblings that O'Neal, a classic back-to-the-basket center, will not be needed if NBA pivot-men Patrick Ewing and David Robinson are both healthy. The Olympic game is only 40 minutes long—not 48, as in the NBA—and shuffling three centers could be unwieldy, not to mention unnecessary. The thinking, according to sources close to the Olympic selection committee, is that a more versatile and active front-courtman, such as Duke's Christian Laettner or Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning, might be a better fit. Another name has entered the picture too—USC's multitalented Harold Miner. He or Ohio State's Jimmy Jackson will be selected if a smaller, swingman type is needed.

Bird's Brain

Coaches and general managers were asked a difficult question in this week's poll: Who is the league's smartest player? In an extremely close race Larry Bird of the Celtics collected 10 votes and Jazz point guard John Stockton got 8.5. (Rocket coach Don Chaney split his ballot between Stockton and point guard Isiah Thomas of the Pistons.) Forward Chris Mullin of the Warriors and guard Jeff Hornacek of the Suns got two votes each, Thomas got 1.5, and Cav point guard Mark Price got one. In voting for Bird, Laker assistant coach Randy Pfund tells a typical story:

"In the 1987 Finals every time Bird would hear us call out the Celtics' offensive play from the bench, he'd change it. Maybe they'd call, say, a 1-up, which is a pick-and-roll involving him and Robert Parish. So we'd call out '1-up' to prepare our defense, and—boom!—Bird would go back-door on us for a basket. It got so we tried to call the play without him hearing us, and finally it became counterproductive. I'm not saying Larry Bird is the only, or even the first, player to do that, but it's just an example of how he plays the game and how he thinks the game."

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