Derrick Coleman added the icing to a season that saw him lead all first-year players in scoring and rebounding by capturing the NBA Rookie of the Year award on Monday.
"After I finish all these questions, I'm going to go home and pinch myself," said Coleman, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, who will pocket $200,000 in contract incentives for winning the award.The announcement came as no surprise based on the numbers.
Coleman had 40 games in which he scored in double figures in points and rebounds, 32 games of 20 or more points and 42 of 10 or more rebounds. He wound up averaging 18.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
But his numbers didn't reflect the 6-foot-10 former Syracuse star's worth to the Nets, a team that's had little return from many of its high draft choices.
The list of flops includes Pearl Washington (12th pick overall in 1986) and Dennis Hopson (3rd overall in 1987). Chris Morris (4th overall in 1988) still is having trouble proving his worth.
Willis Reed, the Nets' senior vice president for basketball operations, knew the track record.
"There were a lot of question marks about who we would take or whether we'd utilize the pick," Reed said, recalling last June's draft. "I said all along we'd explore all possibilities and if we used the pick, we'd take the right player."
Coleman proved to be just that.
With him in the lineup, the Nets improved from a league-low 17 wins in 1989-90 to 26 this season. The team also was much more competitive and rarely found itself blown out.
Coleman received 69 votes from a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters - three from each NBA city and 15 representing national media.
Lionel Simmons, of Sacramento, (18 points, 8.8 rebounds) finished second with 22 votes. Dennis Scott, of Orlando, was third with three votes. Dee Brown of Boston got the final two votes.