The NBA did away with the comeback player of the year award, so we'll have to create one for Jazz guard Darrell Griffith. He's the leading candidate for the MVPSEED award - Most Valuable Player Surviving Exposure in the Expansion Draft.
Griffith's recovery is the Jazz's No. 1 story of November. Through 10 games, he averaged 19.6 points and 6.4 rebounds and played 38 or more minutes five times. This from a player that Jazz officials thought they'd have to baby through the early part of the season because of his fragile knee."It's just shocking me," Coach Frank Layden said of Griffith's progress. "He's getting better and better every day."
And the Jazz could have lost him to Miami or Charlotte last June. Because he was coming off knee surgery and had a $685,000 salary with four contract years left, Jazz president-general manager David Checketts correctly figured he was safe to expose Griffith.
"I understood that," says Griffith, who joined Randy Wittman, Jerry Sichting and John Long as established players overlooked by the Hornets and Heat. "It was a good business move."
Says Layden, "I wouldn't have taken him, either."
And just look at him now. Taking over when Bobby Hansen broke his hand during the exhibition season, Griffith came through with shooting, rebounding and respectable defense to help the Jazz to an 8-2 start, the best in franchise history.
"If they had protected me, they could have lost another player," noted Griffith. The twist is, the Jazz protected Bart Kofoed instead of Griffith, and they could end up cutting Kofoed next week when Hansen returns.
*** KAREEN TOUR: The first of Kareen Abdul-Jabbar's farewells was staged in New York Tuesday, resulting in the first of many stories about his diminishing role with the Lakers.
"This is a year when I am being phased out," he told Newsday. "Pat (Riley) has to be concerned with the team's future. I don't envy him. It's hard for me at times. There's times when I'd like the ball more and I'm being waved to the other side of the court. But I'm not taking it personally. I'm hoping it's what's best for the team."
Said Riley, "It's up to us to design a program in which we can utilize him...If there's one hope I hope, it's that he not be measured by what he does this year, but his total game and contribution over the 20years. But before it's said and done this year, he's hoping to make a major contribution.