Dantley gets around the NBA

If you haven't bothered to check lately, there aren't that many unusual stories in pro sports. The same basic framework will take most of them and still give you a pretty good fit.

An exception is all-star forward Adrian Dantley of the Utah Jazz, a guy with enormous scoring ability who can't seem to stay in one place. Dantley is now with his fourth National Basketball Association team in as many years.

Maybe if Adrian were a troublemaker or had a bad attitude or was a clubhouse lawyer, it would explain why so many teams have traded him. But he was Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Braves (now San Diego) in 1976-77, and later a high scorer and crowd pleaser with both the Indiana Pacers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Every time I've moved so far, it was because the team that traded me was trying to fill a particular need that would help its overall balance," Dantley explained."Like this year, the Lakers decided they had to have a big rebounding forward and Spencer Haywood was available.

"Well, that is their business, I guess," he continued. But I'm tired of teams telling me to trust them, to go out and buy a house and put down some roots, and then as soon as I do they send me somewhere else. Man, if they paid any attention at all, they would know that I played better than any of the guys they have gotten in return."

Dantley, who has been averaging around 29 points per game all season for the Jazz, has wonderful body control and a marvelous shooting touch inside. Even against bigger players in heavy traffic he still manages to find room to put the ball in the basket.

When fans in all 22 NBA cities recently voted Adrian to the Western Conference All-Stars, he trailed only Milwaukee's Marques Johnson in total ballots. Prior to that, he had a super night against Los Angeles, in which he burned his former teammates for 50 points.

At 6 ft. 5 in., small for an NBA forward, Dantley seldom gets to guard anyone his own size. defensively it can sometimes be a liability, especially against players who are several inches taller than he is and just as quick.

But as Adrian likes to point out, this is a label that pro basketball people invariably give all small forwards, and because reporters hear it so often, they react to it and write it.

"Let's face it," Dantley said, "there are always going to be people who look at the inches rather than the total player and make their judgments on that basis. I don't like it, but I've learned to live with it."

Tom Nissalke, who took over as coach of the Utah franchise this season, says he almost couldn't believe it when the Lakers offered Adrian to the Jazz for Haywood, who is considerably older and had been fighting leg problems.

"I not only saw Dantley as a great scorer and a big drawing card for us in a new city, but also as a leader -- someone we could build around," Nissalke explained. "All I could think of was what a perfect situation this was going to be, both for him and us.

"At Buffalo he was a rookie," Tom continued, "a fine first year player, but still a rookie. At Indiana he was also with a group of veterans. And in Los Angeles all you ever heard about was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and now Magic Johnson. But with us, he's the franchise."

In order to gain some insight regarding Dantley's peripatetic career, one NBA scout was asked why Adrian had been traded so many times. He agreed to give his opinion, but only if his name was withheld. This is what he said.

"Basically Dantley is a great scorer -- a true power forward on offense, but a lot less that defensively. A lot of teams don't want him because of his in-between size, plus the fact that he gives back too many points. My feeling is that he will probably be traded again. But people who think that he must have an attitude problem, because of what has happened to him so far, don't know what they're talking about."

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