They started with Darryl Dawkins, Carey Scurry and Kelly Tripucka and finished with Scott Roth, Eddie Hughes and Kelly Tripucka. They won more games than ever before and, all the while, the Utah Jazz were once again a great adventure story.
They open the NBA playoffs Thursday at Portland, following a regular season that offered a little of everything. As always. A 1987-88 review:NOVEMBER: They almost open the season with an upset at Dallas, but the Mavericks' Derek Harper answers Darrell Griffith's go-ahead shot with a three-pointer with one second left for a 97-95 win. As is becoming custom, the Jazz win their first seven home games and lose their first five road games.
Dawkins, acquired in an October trade, lives up to his mysterious reputation and is eventually traded to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Jazz lose at home to Philadelphia, the only losing team that will win in the Salt Palace. Record: 7-6.
DECEMBER: Quite a month in the life of Tripucka. Coach Frank Layden takes the suggestion of management to start showcasing Tripucka, hoping to create interest for the trade that never happened during the summer. Tripucka thaws out and becomes the starting off guard, making five three-pointers and almost engineering a win over the Lakers Dec. 26. In the process, Griffith becomes unhappy and requests a trade and Bobby Hansen is, for the moment, knocked out of the picture.
The Jazz continue to struggle on the road; Scurry fights with Turpin in a Houston hotel parking lot following a bus trip from San Antonio. The Jazz lose on a three-pointer at the horn in Atlanta and blowing a 17-point lead in the next game at New Jersey. But they close the month with two one-point wins. Record: 14-15.
JANUARY: More trouble on the road, as Scurry disagrees with Layden on the bench in Milwaukee and is later waived. The Jazz actually have to defeat San Antonio while Layden is out with the flu to avoid falling into eighth place in the Western Conference.
Rickey Green scores the 5 millionth point in NBA history, but the low point of the season comes the same week at Golden State where the Jazz lose a 15-point lead in the last 15 minutes just as they did against the Warriors in Game 4 of the playoffs last May. They stand 18-22, before coming home and taking a solid victory over Atlanta. Rookie Bart Kofoed is activated from the injured list and Roth comes from Albany of the CBA to replace Scurry. Layden won ders aloud if management should consider buying out his contract. Record: 19-22.
FEBRUARY: The picture brightens considerably, as they take a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break with Tripucka's three-pointer at the horn winning a game at Portland. Karl Malone leads the West with 22 points in the NBA All-Star Game.
Tripucka is kicked in the calf by a Dallas player and will miss six weeks. They move back above .500 by defeating Phoenix Feb. 17. John Stockton is the NBA Player of the Month. Record: 28-26.
MARCH: Griffith is sidelined for the season after playing against New Jersey March 7. When the regular season ends, Layden will note, "Nobody mentions that we lost Tripucka and Griffith." The curious thing is, the injuries cleared up the overcrowded off-guard situation.
After Hansen becomes the starter in the final February game, the Jazz go 20-9 the rest of the way. They take tough road wins at Washington, where Layden tries to fight with a fan after the game; and Denver, where Thurl Bailey scored 41 points after Layden and Malone are ejected in the first seven minutes and the NBA fines team owner Larry Miller $10,000 for comments Layden makes the next day. Hughes, cut twice by the Jazz and out of basketball, is signed. Malone is the NBA Player of the Month. Record: 39-31.
APRIL: They finally take a landmark victory, pulling away from a Laker team missing Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper. They then lose three straight on the road to fall to 10-27 for the road year, but bounce back to win their last four road games and seven of the last eight overall. Roth's shot at the buzzer at Seattle gives them a franchise-record 46th win, and Stockton breaks the NBA season assist record in the season wrapup.
Tripucka, back from his injury and back in the doghouse for an alleged lackadaisical attitude, spends four days in the hospital with violent symptoms of what's diagnosed as a cold. Layden, battling back from midseason criticism and physical problems, coaches the team to a 28-13 ssecond-half record. Record: 47-35.
And they say nothing happens until the playoffs in the NBA.