The Jazz's John Stockton is a distant sixth among guards in the voting for the Western Conference All-Star team, but the latest ballot count has good news for Stockton for this reason: A vote for Dale Ellis is a vote for Stockton.
Stockton will have a much better chance of being selected as a reserve by the conference's coaches if he's competing with Clyde Drexler and not Ellis, who's now No. 2 in the voting. Here's how the team shapes up, with the starters announced Thursday and the coaches voting for the others Jan. 30:Guards - Magic Johnson and Ellis would be worthy starters, leaving five others for two positions: Stockton, Drexler, Byron Scott, Fat Lever and Rolando Blackman. No way will the coaches vote for Drexler, amid Portland's dissension. Dallas' fade is reason enough to overlook Blackman and coaches would logically have trouble voting for both Scott and teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which is another story. Stockton has a good chance.
Centers - Three centers will be chosen, which is not enough to justify Abdul-Jabbar's selection. He should play in the Legends Game - after all, he's older than 11 of those players. With Akeem Olajuwon the starter, Abdul-Jabbar will knock out either Kevin Duckworth or Mark Eaton.
To the fans, a 6.2-point scorer like Eaton has no business in the All-Star Game, but coaches know better, right? "I think other people recognize how valuable he is to our team," said Coach Jerry Sloan.
The Jazz are on course to have the lowest field-goal defense percentage (.434) since 1973-74, and Eaton is the reason. If they're still leading the Midwest Division by voting time, he should be the choice over Duck-worth.
Forwards - Karl Malone and Alex English are deserving starters, but the rest is difficult. Tom Chambers and James Worthy are my choices, leaving out Chris Mullin, Xavier McDaniel and Thurl Bailey. Mullin or Scott should be the wild-card player to fill in the 12th slot.
MOVING AROUND: Sure enough, Bingham High product Fred Roberts is still around. After four teams and six NBA seasons, he's on somebody's bench again.
"He's the kind of guy I like to have on my team," says Milwaukee Coach Del Harris. "He's an excellent reserve, because he's ready to play one minute or 48 minutes; he always gives you a good effort."
Roberts has averaged 15 minutes this season, shooting about 40 percent. "It's more consistent and I understand my role a little bit better, but I don't think I've been able to contribute as much as I did at times with Boston," Roberts said. "If I start making a shot, I might get a little more time."
No doubt, Roberts has pieced together a nice pro career as a backup player, having started with a season in Italy. Milwaukee acquired him for a second-round draft choice last summer via Miami and the expansion draft. "I hope this works out and I can stick around," Roberts said. "Somehow, you have to break into that top seven (players) to really make yourself solid, to where you can set up camp."
That's why Roberts is used to moving - but he's also never been cut in the NBA.
MR. JAZZ: Wednesday at San Antonio, Darrell Griffith will pass Rickey Green as the Jazz's all-time leader in minutes played. By the end of the season, his eighth with the team, Griffith could replace Green as the games-played leader.
Griffith is also No. 1 in field-goal attempts and, of course, three-pointers. He's in the top eight of every category for the 15-year-old franchise, including blocked shots and rebounds.
AT RANDOM: In the 1987 draft, the Jazz wanted 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues. They went to the other extreme last June, locking in on 7-foot-7, 380-pound Jorge Gonzalez of Argentina as a possible third-round choice.
Instead, the Hawks took him. This week, Gonzalez came to Atlanta, where he'll work out off and on until his season starts in April. The Hawks are not sure about signing him.
"He can play," said team president Stan Kasten. "He has a nice offensive touch. He can score. Obviously, he's a great target down low. But he does not block shots yet, and has very poor mobility up and down the floor." . . . After Karl Malone hit his first career 3-pointer last week, Thurl Bailey came back with Nos. 3 and 4 in a game at Portland . . . Asked about Chambers' selfish reputation, Phoenix assistant coach Paul Westphal said, "It's something we've never had to worry about."