Sixers go `forward' in basketball draft; Inkster rolling now

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The Boston Celtics, already chockablock with winning players, will have to make room for one more next season. That's because the reigning champions just selected 6 ft. 8 in. forward Len Bias of Maryland, perhaps the best athlete available in this week's National Basketball Association draft, which was one of the deepest ever. Bias was not even the first player chosen. That distinction belonged to North Carolina's Brad Daugherty, whose 7-foot height had considerable appeal for the Cleveland Cavaliers. To get the top-rated pivot prospect, the Cavs were willing to make an 11th-hour trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, who will receive veteran Roy Hinson, an all-star-caliber forward, and ``other considerations'' in return.

The Sixers, however, didn't stop there, making another last-minute, blockbuster deal with the Washington Bullets. This multi-player swap sent 6-10 center Moses Malone and 6-6 forward Terry Catledge to the nation's capital in exchange for two other strapping front-court players, 6-10 center Jeff Ruland and 6-9 forward Cliff Robinson.

Pat Williams, the 76ers' general manager, accurately called it ``a dramatic day in the history of the organization,'' then added, ``We now have the finest group of forwards in the league.'' While some teams (Boston, for example) might argue that point, Philly is in the clover, at least in the corners, where Hinson and Robinson will operate in rotation with Julius Erving and Charles Barkley.

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To the shock of many observers, the Sixers basically ignored what many feel is their greatest need, which is pure height. They were one of the shortest teams in the league last year, and seemingly a cinch to pick Daugherty or another of the talented seven-footers coming out of college.

With Boston in the same division, the situation seemed especially urgent. Then, too, the NBA final, which saw Boston's skyscrapers (Robert Parish, Bill Walton, Kevin McHale) square off against Houston's Twin Towers (Akeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson), underlined the importance of big men around the entire league.

Why Philadelphia didn't go this route may be a reflection on the big men available. While many are talented, none has really been chosen a sure-fire ``impact player'' with the superstar label sewn in, as was the case with Olajuwon or Patrick Ewing in previous years.

After Bias was selected, the Golden State Warriors picked 6-11 Chris Washburn, who will pass up his final two years at North Carolina State. Once he gains more experience, Washburn has the bulk to assert himself in the low post area, but the remaining centers selected on the first round are more in the thin man mold -- William Bedford of Memphis State (Phoenix Suns), Roy Tarpley of Michigan (Dallas Mavericks), Brad Sellers of Ohio State (Chicago Bulls), and John Salley of Georgia Tech (Detroit Pistons).

Besides Boston, several clubs with early choices felt the cream of the draft really was at forward. The Indiana Pacers, for instance, took 6-8 sharpshooter Chuck Person of Auburn with the fifth pick, and the New York Knicks immediately followed suit by selecting Kentucky's 6-8 Kenny Walker, who should complement Ewing. Certainly the most interesting decision on draft day was made by the Portland Trail Blazers, who blazed a trail when they chose the Soviet Union's 7-2 Arvidas Sabonis at the bottom of the first round. Portland must have realistic expectations of signing Sabonis, since no team can afford to squander its No. 1 pick. Inkster grabs LPGA limelight

Just when Pat Bradley appeared to be the runaway leader for Player of the Year honors on the women's golf tour, Juli Inkster has entered the picture. Inkster, a fourth-year pro from Los Altos, Calif., has suddenly caught fire with two tournament victories in a row. Her latest came in the Lady Keystone Open in Hershey, Pa., where she parred the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to break a three-way tie with Debbie Massey and Cindy Hill. The victory, her second straight in the Keystone, followed a rather unusual triumph the week before in the McDonald's Classic, which she won despite a 5-over-par 77 on the final round.

These results only hint at what Inkster might someday achieve. She's carried the ``unlimited potential'' yoke since capturing three consecutive US Amateur titles (1980-82). Her first LPGA victory came in only her fifth pro start, a record for precociousness bettered by just one player, Amy Alcott, who won her third time out. Inkster, however, owns the distinction of having won two major tournaments as a rookie.

Last year she slipped from sixth to 19th in the tour's end-of-season rankings, but now appears to be hitting her stride, as well as her drives, approaches, and putts. Touching other bases

Maybe it was only fitting that, on Father's Day, race driver Mario Andretti edged his son Michael in the closest finish in Indy car history. The drama occurred in Portland, Ore., where Michael held the lead on the last lap, but ran out of gas on the final straightaway and attempted to coast to victory. His dad flew by, though, and won by 7-hundredths of a second.

The 24-team World Cup soccer tournament underway in Mexico has had its quirky side, thanks to the six-division, round-robin play that began the month-long event. A case in point involves Poland, which used its lone score in three first-round games to advance. The Poles beat Portugal 1-0, then played a scoreless tie against Morocco and lost to England 3-0. These results gave them 3 points in the standings (2 points for the victory, 1 for the tie), enough to qualify for a ``wild card'' berth in the second stage of the competition. Winless Uruguay was every bit as resourceful in round-robin group play, scoring two goals in a loss and a pair of ties to move on. But not for long. Once play shifted to a single-elimination format, Uruguay was sent packing by Argentina, which scored a 1-0 victory. Poland, meanwhile, was knocked out after losing to Brazil, 4-0.

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