For a while Friday night, things were looking up for the Utah Jazz. Karl Malone was outplaying Charles Barkley, Eric Leckner was wheeling and dealing and the Jazz were on their way to an easy 113-87 exhibition victory over Philadelphia in the Salt Palace.
Bobby Hansen's left hand changed the picture considerably.Working his way around a screen on defense, Hansen banged his hand against the knee of Philly player, and this was no ordinary bump. After the game, X-rays revealed a fracture of the second metacarpal bone and Hansen's hand was placed in a cast. Jazz trainer Don Sparks said Hansen would miss four to six weeks of action, meaning between seven and 15 regular-season games.
Now 3-1 halfway through the preseason, the Jazz play Golden State tonight in Ogden.
Having waived second-round draft choice Jeff Moe Friday, the Jazz have four other players available at Hansen's off-guard position - Darrell Griffith, recovering well from knee surgery in March; Bart Kofoed, who dressed for the game but did not play after returning from a stress fracture in his foot; rookie Marty Simmons; and forward Scott Roth, being used occasionally in the backcourt. What now?
"My temptation is to say we ought to see if Griffith can get back in the flow right now. This is his chance to step up," said Jazz president-general manager David Checketts. "We won't do anything (trade) immediately, but if we're not getting what we need . . ."
Said Griffith, "You've got to step in, that's simple. I'm not a rookie."
Another troubling development was the play of Billy Donovan, who became the No. 1 candidate to back up John Stockton when two other point guards were waived. In the opening minutes of the second quarter, the 76ers outscored the Jazz 10-2 as the Jazz offense struggled to create decent shots and Coach Frank Layden quickly sent Stockton to the scorers' table to replace Donovan.
Layden eventually called timeout and also sent Thurl Bailey and Karl Malone back into the game, later defending Donovan by saying he should have staggered his substitutions and not used five reserves together.
"That's my fault," he said. "I can't put them out on the floor together; it's not fair to them. They're unsure of themselves, running the plays. They've got so much on their minds."
Just the same, a fivesome of Eric Leckner, Jose Ortiz, Mike Brown, Griffith and the departed Eddie Hughes had played the Laker reserves evenly in a smiliar situation in Wednesday's game in the Forum.
Donovan came back to play decently in the second half, finishing with four points, six assists and three turnovers in 18 minutes.
The return of some of the regulars in the second quarter, meanwhile, suddenlyimproved Leck-ner's play. The rookie center made all five of his shots in the first half and ended up with 15 points and six rebounds, playing 28 minutes while Eaton watched from the bench with foul trouble.
"I can't describe how much fun it was," said Leckner. "Not only going out and playing that kind of game, but just feeling that I can be competitive with these guys. I need the confidence."
Leckner's offensive moves came against veteran Philly center Mike Gminski and second-year player Chris Welp, the player the Jazz skipped to draft Jose Ortiz in 1987. "He's going to be a nice player. He runs the floor well and he's got some good offensive skills," said Gminski.
Noted Eaton, who faced Leckner in the Utah Pro-Am Summer League when the rookie was struggling, added, "He posted up strong and looked very good. He's acclimating himself to the NBA style of play. He still has a lot to learn, but one thing about him, he has confidence. He knows what he can do."
The Sixers (2-2) had played well in their first three exhbitions and spent three productive days of practice in Las Vegas before coming to town, but this was a different story. "This," said Coach Jimmy Lynam, "was not pretty."
For the Jazz, the win was not all that fun, either.