Let's hear it for those laugh-a-minute Washington Bullets. Never a dull draft day with them, no sir. Drafting the unique and spectacular Muggsy Bogues, all 5 feet 3 of him. That'll sell some tickets. Now, what will they do with him?
Will they go to the "Randy Newman Backcourt," playing Bogues next to 5-9 Michael Adams? You've heard of the Twin Towers? Say hello to the Ground Floor. The only time you'll see guards shorter than Bogues and Adams is if they remake "Hoosiers" with Danny DeVito and Gary Coleman.
Will they design "The Long and the Short of It Offense" for Bogues and 7-6 Manute Bol, with Bol setting a screen and Bogues dribbling between his legs? Kevin Loughery can diagram it like the windmill hole in miniature golf. To entertain the fans at halftime, Bol can lift Bogues over his head, and they can perform their impression of the letter i.
Now that they have Bol and Bogues from the U.S. Basketball League, will they go back there for the big triple and sign Nancy Lieberman?
Don't get me wrong about the pick. It's stupendous, inspired, electric. And I like Bogues as much as the next guy. It's just that the next guy's usually taller. Unless Eddie Gaedel snuck into the NBA, too, there hasn't ever been a player smaller than Bogues. A lot of jockeys are taller than Bogues. What was in Bob Ferry's head when he made this pick at No. 12 of the entire draft? Had he watched "The Wizard of Oz" the night before and gone to sleep hearing the Munchkins singing, "Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road . . . ?"
Meaning no disrespect, but when Bogues crouches down to take his defensive position against Magic Johnson, Magic's normal dribble will be over Bogues' head. It's hard to imagine Magic, or any of the big guards in the league, not wide-eyed in glee at the thought of Muggsy checking him. Do the words "clear out" mean anything to you? Bogues adds a whole new meaning to the term "low post." He'd have been a great pick for Denver; in that thin air he'd probably be 5-7. But what will they do to stretch him now? David Robinson grew six inches at the Naval Academy, and the legendary Scottie Pippen grew six inches at Central Arkansas. Can it happen to Bogues? Ferry's on the phone to Monsanto as we speak. Stay tuned.
For the first time in four years, the Bullets didn't make a big trade on draft day. They tried to get Fat Lever from Denver, but it fell through. So, for the first time in four years, the fans were left with the draft itself to judge the Bullets' progress. And though Bogues' selection was cheered heartily, it was mostly a cheer for a local boy who made good, not a cheer for the local team that picked him.
The Kornheiser Poll, a thoroughly unscientific, random poll conducted within five minutes of the Bullets' pick, surveyed 35 fans watching the draft at Capital Centre and found only three who applauded choosing Bogues. Many who agreed with drafting a point guard preferred Mark Jackson of St. John's. Some typical reactions:
"No! No!" (A variation on this theme was "Dumb! Dumb!")
"Terrible, man. Who's not gonna post him up?"
"We've already got midgets."
"Trade Bob Ferry."
"I like Muggsy Bogues. But he's 5-3. Who's he gonna check? He's a good player, but not a first-round player."
"Not with the 12th pick."
Personally, I like the pick. It's a stunner. Ferry said, "I don't think it's a gamble." But of course it's a gamble. It's a major gamble, drafting a 5-3 guy No. 12. And the gamble is what makes it such an attractive pick. Muggsy Bogues could turn out to be the leader the Bullets have been searching for throughout the 1980s, when they've tried Kevin Porter, John Lucas, Gus Williams, Bryan Warrick, Wes Matthews, Leon Wood, Ennis Whatley and Frank (can I circle the 10-game package I want to play in?) Johnson at point guard. Or he could turn out to be an absolute laughingstock, one of the worst No. 1 draft picks of all time -- or at least since Kenny Green. I agree with Loughery, who says, "This is an important pick for our franchise." If it bombs, it could be the last one.
Muggsy Bogues is 5-3. He could be the greatest 5-3 since Napoleon, but he's still 5-3. It was Jerry (Medfly) Brown, former governor of California, who said, "Think small." And you know what happened to him.
"It's not a plus," Ferry admitted. "But his assets are going to cause a lot more problems for other teams than his liabilities are going to hurt us." Echoing the theme, Loughery said, "We know his size is a detriment, but his skills and leadership qualities are something we needed." They expect Bogues to be the starting point guard. Imagine that. Twenty years ago, when Ferry and Loughery were playing in the NBA, they'd have laughed at the thought of a 5-3 guard.
"We thought he was the best point guard there," Ferry said, defending the pick at the barest position in the Bullets' cupboard. (Incidentally, don't ever say the Bullets don't get their man. They passed on him last year, but this year they finally drafted Duane Washington. Not Syracuse's, Middle Tennessee State's. Not Dwayne, Duane. Not The Pearl, an oyster. But isn't it the thought that counts? Now back to Bogues:) "I don't think you'll see any point guard go around Muggsy, I don't care who he is." Ferry and Loughery scouted him in every league, every camp and every clinic they could -- "We scouted every inch of him . . . it didn't take long," Ferry cracked -- and came away convinced. "We saw him against every player in the draft. He has dominated everyone he's played against."
So they have rolled the big dice. With Atlanta, Detroit, Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia still demonstrably ahead of them within the conference, and Indiana, Chicago and Cleveland making bold strides, the Bullets have countered with Muggsy Bogues, a revolution in the making, a whirling dervish who's spent his lifetime on smooth wood and grainy asphalt making skeptics eat their doubts. And we watch with keen anticipation.