Before he accepted the NBA's offer to full in for injured teammate Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had turned down a chance to play in today's All-Star Game as a 13th player after the Western Conference coaches voted Mark Eaton and Kevin Duckworth to the team ahead of him. "I was resigned to the fact he would be home in L.A.," said NBA commissioner David Stern. NBA officials asked Abdul-Jabbar to reconsider after Johnson tore a hamstring muscle Wednesday, and he'll make a 19th and last All-Star appearance.
***** A three-way deal involving Dallas' Mark Aguirre, Indiana's Wayman Tisdale and Detroit's Adrian Dantley is the hottest trade talk this weekend. As for the Jazz, with the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaching, "We're not doing anything at all," said owner Larry Miller. "We had looked at a couple of things two weeks ago."
One of those might have included Boston's Danny Ainge. "I've been involved in trade rumors from the time I've been in Boston," said Ainge, who competed in the Long Distance Shootout. "Would I like to play In Utah? I love Utah; I go back there all the time, and they have a great team. I have to maintain that I'm happy playing in Boston. Until that changes, that's the attitude I've got to have."
Ainge will be in the Salt Palace Thursday - with the Celtics.
***** Karl Malone played 33 minutes in the 1988 All-Star Game, and he's back for more - even though he could have used a break, considering his Jazz workload this season. "If anybody needed three days' rest, I did," admitted the Mailman, "but I'm at the party now. If I didn't want to play the minutes, I shouldn't have come. I want to play as long as John (Stockton) plays, how ever long that is."Stockton is the West's only point guard and will face the East's Isiah Thomas, Mark Price and Mark Jackson. "I'm going to tell him not to guard anybody so he doesn't get in foul trouble," said West Coach Pat Riley. Forward Chris Mullin will play in the backcourt to spell Stockton.
"Extra minutes aren't going to bother me," says Stockton. "I still think other guys are going to play; they'll split it up."
As one of four West centers, Eaton says, "I expect to not play too much." Riley may use two centers in the same lineup to give everyone more time.
***** East Coach Lenny Wilkens, himself a Hall of Fame guard, welcomes the development of little guys like Stockton and his own Cleveland player, Price. "The assumption all along is that the 6-1 guy isn't going to be as good. I went through that," he said.
"People aren't as closed-minded now," said Price. "Before, if you weren't 6-4 or 6-5, people wouldn't look at you."
The Jazz's Thurl Bailey is the clear favorite for the NBA Sixth Man Award - among the players. In a Houston Post survey of 125 players, Bailey finished ahead of Milwaukee's Ricky Pierce by almost a 2-1 margin. A media panel votes in April for the official award . . . Karl Malone must not have voted: Earl Strom was voted the best referee . . . The Salt Palace was voted the third-worst place to play, behind ancient Boston Garden and the beautiful but isolated Coliseum in suburban Cleveland . . . Eaton was fourth on the list of best defensive players, behind Michael Jordan, Michael Cooper and Akeem Olajuwon . . .
Denver will play in Rome in October in the McDonald's Open . . . Eaton says, "With Tom Chambers and Karl (Malone) running the floor and Stock getting them the ball, it should be a fun game." Jazz management knows that. They wanted to go after Chambers before he signed with Phoenix as a free agent . . . Price: "I've never been what you call a true point guard, in the sense of a John Stockton or Isiah Thomas. I'm learning to see the floor much better." . . . Asked if the Bart Kofoed grievance will go to arbitration, NBA general counsel Gary Bettman said, "You never know. It's not unusual for grievances to be settled before being tried."