It's that time of year when media representatives from each NBA city must submit their votes for the various postseason honors. This season the awards should have a distinct Washington flavor.
The categories are most valuable player, rookie of the year, comeback player of the year, coach of the year and two five-man teams.
The easiest choice was the Bullets' Spencer Haywood for the biggest comeback. There is heavy support for Gus Williams, who is averaging 24 points a game while leading Seattle from the cellar to near the top of the Pacific Division, but the only place he came back from was a self-imposed vacation. He's playing the same way he did two years ago and, undoubtedly, would have last year if he hadn't decided to hold out for more money.
"Nobody came back from as far as I did; I came from across the big pond," Haywood said, referring to his exile to Italy. The tale of a 32-year-old forward, who was waived out of the league during the 1980 championship series, now starting and averaging 13 points a game for a playoff team, is a heartwarming one.
All one has to do is talk to the other coaches, and selecting the Bullets' Gene Shue as coach of the year is easy. It seems as if every coach visiting Capital Centre this season volunteered a compliment about the way Shue has blended a collection of castoffs and rookies into a winning team.
"I've had a lot of terrific moments and years in coaching," Shue said. "This season certainly is one of my greatest experiences. I mean, at the start of the year we were awful, but everybody stuck together. Even when things were going badly, the spirit was good. For the club to be where we are right now is incredible."
Others who certainly deserve consideration include Don Nelson, who has had to juggle his lineup all season because of injuries and still has Milwaukee contesting for the second-best record in the league; Kevin Loughery, who has turned Atlanta around in the second half of the season, and the vastly underrated Doug Moe at Denver. We'd like to vote for him because nobody else will.
There are several outstanding candidates for rookie of the year, although the players' choice of Isiah Thomas in the upcoming Sporting News doesn't make our top three.
Since getting a chance to start after Mark Aguirre fractured his foot, Jay Vincent has been an almost unstoppable scorer for Dallas, averaging more than 25 points a game as a regular. At least he's the best second-round draft choice.
Kelly Tripucka wasn't selected until 11 other players had been drafted, but a lot of general managers are kicking themselves now. The scrappy forward is 12th in the league in scoring, is an aggressive offensive rebounder and works hard on defense.
The most consistent rookie has been Buck Williams and for that reason he gets the vote here. The former University of Maryland star has been third in the league in rebounding all season and scored at a 15-point-a-game pace while helping New Jersey rise from the cellar to a playoff spot.
"Buck has played with the consistency of a veteran," Coach Larry Brown said. John Killilea, Milwaukee's veteran assistant coach, calls Williams "a cross between a Dave DeBusschere and a Paul Silas."
The most important vote cast, of course, is for the league's most valuable player and there is room for five names on the ballot. The ones we chose, starting at the top, were Moses Malone, Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving.
The Celtics have so much talent, that if any one player is sidelined, they still can win. They won five in a row with Bird and Tiny Archibald on the bench and beat the 76ers in Philadelphia Sunday without Parish, who has a sprained ankle. Johnson and Erving do so many things for their teams, but nobody, absolutely nobody on this planet, does more for his employer than Malone.
Without Malone, Houston would have a .400 record. With his irrepressible rebounding and 30 points, the Rockets have as good a chance as anyone to win the Western Conference playoffs.
Joining Malone on our all-star team are Bird and Erving at the forwards, with Johnson and George Gervin in the back court. The second team consists of forwards Adrian Dantley and Alex English, guards Gus Williams and Sidney Moncrief and Parish edging Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center. Most of the coaches like Williams over Magic, but what do they know