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Original Issue



The career path for Piston star Grant Hill was preordained: Be
the next Michael Jordan, or else. Such lofty expectations were
thrust upon the Duke alumnus because of his fluid--and
airborne--game, as well as his extraordinary marketing potential.

The comparison was of immediate concern to Hill, who experienced
considerable angst about succeeding in the NBA. "It didn't seem
fair to me," says Hill, last season's co-Rookie of the Year. "No
matter what I did, if I didn't score as many points as Michael,
or win a title in as many years as him, I would be a failure.
Besides, I was never a scorer. Getting 30 a night has never been
what I'm about."

Hill was certain that Doug Collins, hired last spring to be the
Pistons' coach, would understand. Collins, whose son Chris plays
at Duke, knew Hill well. Hill also thought that Collins would
see that he was different from Jordan, whom Collins had coached
for three seasons in Chicago.

Yet it was not a kind or gentle Collins who greeted Hill in
training camp. The coach was critical, demanding and relentless
in his assault on Hill's alleged shortcomings as a floor leader.
Collins repeatedly diagrammed plays for Hill to take over games
in the final minute. But while his coach implored him to take it
to the hole, the reluctant Hill passed off instead. After a loss
to Boston on Nov. 29, Collins publicly questioned why his best
player was hesitant to drive into the teeth of the defense to
initiate contact. "I was," says Collins, "a real shock to this

Collins says the "tough love" was by design, as were constant
references to Jordan's ability to carry a team. But now, as Hill
continues his adjustment to a more aggressive role, Collins,
too, has adapted. In other words, the Be Like Mike campaign has
been terminated.

"Grant doesn't have the killer instinct in scoring that Michael
has," says Collins. "He can dominate a game more subtly, by
getting the ball to open people, by rebounding and, with two
dribbles, getting his team into the open floor the way Magic
[Johnson] did as a rookie."

Collins has made Hill into a point forward, which reduces his
opportunities to pick up transition baskets and high-
percentage shots in the paint. On defense, Collins has, at
various times, assigned Hill to guard muscular Knick forward
Anthony Mason in the post and to harass Magic point guard
Anfernee Hardaway in the backcourt. Because of Hill's success in
these diverse roles, Collins now compares him not to Jordan but
to Julius Erving and another Bull--Scottie Pippen.

Hill's numbers through Sunday were indeed Pippen-like: he led
the Pistons in scoring (21.2), rebounding (8.9) and assists
(6.2). Yet the most critical aspect of Hill's development is his
evolution as a leader, a task he initially found awkward with
veteran Joe Dumars on the roster. "Grant is a protocol guy,"
Collins explains. "He was brought up to wait his turn. I told
him, 'Your turn is now.'"

That might also soon be true for the team, which finished a
sorry 28-54 in '94-95. On Saturday the Pistons whipped the Nets
91-80 for their eighth win in 10 games; Hill led Detroit with a
triple double (26 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists). But the
Pistons, who were 18-15 and in fourth place in the Central
Division at week's end, need another blue-chip player up front
before they can be truly competitive. They will be bidding to
land one via free agency (hello there, Juwan Howard) during the

Hill may still have some things to learn, but that doesn't
matter to the fans, who for the second straight season have made
him the runaway leader in the All-Star voting. In fact, through
Sunday he led the second-place player, a guy by the name of
Jordan, by 56,862 votes.


It was good to be King, or so Sacramento thought until it hit
the road last week. The Kings had streaked out of the gate with
a 19-9 mark (their best start since 1982-83, when they were in
Kansas City) and had a roster that had depth for the first time
in almost a decade. After stealing Providence forward Michael
Smith with the 35th pick in the 1994 draft, general manager
Geoff Petrie plucked another second-round gem with the 47th pick
in '95 by selecting 5'10" UCLA point guard Tyus Edney.

Isiah Thomas, Toronto's executive vice president of basketball,
saw Edney play while he scouted another Pac-10 point guard,
Damon Stoudamire, whom Thomas drafted with the seventh pick. "Ty
has a knack, without thumping his chest, of convincing teammates
to gravitate toward him and say, 'Take us,'" says Thomas. "I see
him doing that already with the Kings."

Edney's numbers (11.1 ppg, 5.6 assists through Sunday) are
commendable, but it's asking too much for a rookie to reverse
the road misfortunes of the Kings, who started an eastern swing
on Jan. 9 with a lackluster loss at Atlanta, then blew a
25-point third-quarter lead and fell to the Celtics 113-104 the
next night. Edney, who had a sprained ankle, watched that
debacle in street clothes, but he was on the floor two nights
later in Washington, when Sacramento absorbed another beating,
117-88. Some hope was salvaged with a 119-111 win last Saturday
against New York, where the Kings won in Madison Square Garden
for the first time in 14 seasons, but Sacramento's shaky
performance on the road was hauntingly familiar.

Last season the Kings embarked on a February road trip with a
28-20 record and dreams of the postseason. But Sacramento went
0-5 on the trip, finished the year under .500 (39-43) and missed
the playoffs by two games. "Our team has to understand that
we're not going to have our fans every night to keep us
energized," says coach Garry St. Jean. "We've got to develop a
single-mindedness on the road to put teams away. We can talk all
we want, but we've got to walk the walk."


Nugget guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is having the best season of his
career; through Sunday he was leading Denver in both scoring
(20.1 ppg) and assists (7.8). While he has credited his 1991
conversion to Islam as a calming influence on his life and his
game, Abdul-Rauf made one other significant change: He stopped
taking his medication for Tourette's syndrome, a genetic
disorder characterized by recurrent involuntary movements,
including both physical and vocal tics. Abdul-Rauf was taking
both Prozac and Prolixin to combat his condition. But, says his
business adviser, Shareef Nasir, the side effects made him
groggy, so with the approval of team doctors, Abdul-Rauf decided
18 months ago to try playing without medication. "It's made all
the difference for him," says Nasir. "He's able to control his
tics and his movements, and his game has flourished. He's had
Tourette's a long time. His body has finally learned how to deal
with it on its own."


With the acquisition of guard Todd Day putting a serious crimp
in his minutes, Celtic captain Dee Brown asked to be traded, and
he should get his wish soon. Boston talked with Minnesota about
a Brown-for-Isaiah Rider swap, but the Timberwolves were more
interested in center Eric Montross, who has faltered in coach
M.L. Carr's small-lineup, up-tempo system. The Kings called the
Celtics to offer backup point guard Bobby Hurley or small
forward Lionel Simmons, who has a big contract and a reputation
for playing soft. Boston politely declined.... Mindful of the
Feb. 22 trading deadline, the Nets continue to shop point guard
Kenny Anderson, but the interest has been lukewarm, primarily
because most clubs feel Anderson, who will be a free agent this
summer, isn't worth the $40 million (over six years) that New
Jersey offered and he already rejected.... Atlanta failed in its
attempts to pry center Rony Seikaly loose from the Warriors
(point guard Mookie Blaylock was among those offered), and while
swingman Stacey Augmon also has been dangled, the Hawks are now
thinking it's wiser to hold on to Augmon until June, with hopes
of using him as bait to move up on draft day.... The rumored
swap of Charles Barkley for Brent Barry and Loy Vaught never
could have happened, because Barkley would have retired on the
spot rather than play for the noncontending Clippers. But that
doesn't mean Phoenix is averse to dealing Sir Charles.
Furthermore, say Sun sources, Barkley would welcome a parachute
to a contending team so he can have one more crack at a ring,
something he believes cannot happen in Phoenix this season.


Maverick point guard Jason Kidd, Jan. 12 against the Suns: 50 M,
9-14 FG, 14-14 FT, 33 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds. Kidd
capped a spirited fourth-quarter Dallas comeback with his
falling, off-balance putback in the final seconds to send the
game into overtime. Note also that Kidd, a 66.9% free throw
shooter, was perfect from the line. The Maverick point guard
rang up his second triple double of the season in his team's
140-130 win (his third--13 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists--came
the next night in a 103-83 loss to the Hornets). And he was
consistent in posting big numbers across the board: He also had
six turnovers.


Whispers persist that Milwaukee owner and U.S. Senator Herb
Kohl, who is not known for his patience, will ask coach-general
manager Mike Dunleavy to choose between his two jobs. Dunleavy,
who has always maintained that he is first and foremost a coach,
says that's news to him, but if it happens, he's ready. "The
trend now is that people coming in want both jobs, but I never
felt that way," said Dunleavy. "I've always said if we could
find someone really good to do the G.M.'s job, that would be
fine with me. It's definitely not something I would fight."
Dunleavy is in the fourth year of an eight-year contract. His
plan was to rebuild with youth, but Kohl has more of a win-now
mentality, which might explain the signings of 34-year-old Terry
Cummings and 33-year-old Jerry Reynolds. The Bucks have also
made recent deals for veterans Benoit Benjamin (his nearly $4
million-a-year contract is up after this season) and Sherman
Douglas.... The Trail Blazers are not only the league's worst
free throw-shooting team (63.4% through Sunday), they also lead
the league in Robinsons. The signing of Rumeal Robinson, late of
the CBA's Connecticut Pride, gives them a set of three (Clifford
and James are the others).

COLOR PHOTO: ALLEN EINSTEIN Though Hill can levitate like Mike, Piston coach Collins now views his rising star as another Scottie. [View from above of Grant Hill with basketball at basket]

COLOR PHOTO: ROCKY WIDNER Edney (with ball) might one day make his team Kings of the road. [Tyus Edney playing basketball against Los Angeles Lakers]