With Jazz forward Mike Brown becoming a free agent next summer, the Jazz are keeping their eyes open for big, physical players in case "Big Daddy" goes to another NBA team or opts to play in Italy. Among the considerations is University of Utah forward Walter Watts.
Watts has been invited by Scott Layden, the Jazz's player personnel director, to attend the team's rookie/free agent camp in July."We saw him practice last year and saw what progress he's made," says Layden. "We told Coach (Rick) Majerus that whenever he felt it appropriate to invite him to our camp, to do so. Since then, he (Watts) had an outstanding season."
Watts upped his stock dramatically with the Utes going to the round of 16 in the NCAA playoffs, then made a strong showing at the Portsmouth (Va.) camp, in which scouts look over college prospects. As a result, Watts has what Layden calls "a lot of options."
"I hope you're drafted," Layden told Watts, "but if not, we'd like you in camp."
What can the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Watts offer the Jazz? "He has very good hands," says Layden. "He has great coordination and he's not afraid of anything. He goes in there and bangs, bangs, bangs. In the NBA there's a place for guys like that. Whenever there's a game played in this league, there's bodies flying everywhere. You need somebody that can play under those conditions."
Magic Johnson made basketball history last week, passing Oscar Robertson on the alltime NBA assist list. But even Magic's start in the NBA wasn't as prolific as the Jazz's John Stockton.
In his first six seasons with the Lakers, Johnson registered 4,295 assists. By comparison, Stockton, who didn't start until his third year with the Jazz, registered 5,075 in his first six seasons. This year, Johnson has 981 assists and Stockton 1,136.
As Magic will tell you, it isn't easy chasing records. After last week's record-setting 35th straight road loss, Sacramento Coach Dick Motta quipped, "When I left home, my mom and dad said I was going to go a long ways. I don't know if this is what they had in mind."
Spurred by the Kings' continuing road woes, the Sacramento Union published a verse to the tune of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again," that went like this: "On the road again, just can't wait to lose on the road again. Out here making hist'ry with our friends, and just can't wait to crash on the road again."
He has been on the edge of the NBA ever since leaving from the University of Utah in 1986, hanging on for a time, being cut, and returning again. But the Utes' Kelvin Upshaw says he always knew he could make it in the Big Show.
"Ever since I can remember, basketball has been a part of my life," he recently told the Dallas Mavericks Press. "I vaguely remember when I was six or seven, the first time I picked up a basketball . . . " He continued, "Growing up in the inner city of Chicago, where basketball is a way of life for most young kids, I always knew I wanted to be here. I went down to Chicago Stadium and watched Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson and David Thompson from the time I was a little kid . . .
"People told me I was not going to make it because I wasn't big enough, I wasn't strong enough. But that never bothered me because I always knew I had the skills and talent to be here. I knew my dedication to the game and my will to play would carry me a long way. That was my goal and I stuck to it. So here I am. And you can say I'm living a dream."
Across the NBA: From Orlando Coach Matt Guokas: "If Portland stays healthy and can continue to play at the level they are playing on right now, I don't see anyone in the league stopping them in the playoffs.". . . Denver Coach Paul Westhead on the Nuggets' clinching the worst record in the NBA: "I have no thoughts about it." . . . Former NBA star Bill Walton on future NBA star Shaquille O'Neal of Louisiana State: "I think he is the next great player in the United States. There are a lot of good ones but he is the next great one."
This report includes materials gathered from outside news sources.