Don't waste time wishing Wayman Tisdale a Happy New Year. Not even
the return of Bill Laimbeer could spoil his joyous mood.
Tisdale is having fun in the sun -- and on the basketball court
with the Phoenix Suns.
Many people go to Phoenix to retire. Tisdale went there to un-retire.
Actually, Tisdale never retired. It just seemed that way during
six-plus invisible seasons in Sacramento. The Kings never graced
the playoffs during Tisdale's tenure and were on national
television about as many times per year as, say, Dick Clark's New
Years Rocking Eve.
"You go home," said Tisdale, "and people ask me `When did you
retire? Are you still playing? Who do you play for? Sacramento? Is
that in the NBA?'
"Basketball wasn't fun anymore regardless of money. It wasn't
worth it, putting myself through it mentally and night-in and
night-out not getting respect. I was putting up good numbers, but
just the humiliation part of it (was too much)."
Rather than subject himself to more humiliation, Tisdale, an
unrestricted free agent last offseason, turned down an offer worth
more than $3 million per season from the Los Angeles Clippers to
sign a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Suns.
Horrible move for the bank account. Great move for sanity.
Going from the Kings to the Clippers would have been like jumping
out of the frying pan and into a bottomless pit of boiling oil. The
Clippers, stripped by the defections of Mark Jackson, Dominique
Wilkins and Ron Harper, could very well challenge for the worst
record in NBA history.
The Suns? Maybe championship bound. And Tisdale, who has played
in just four career playoff games -- none since 1987 -- is glowing.
"It's been a good situation for me to play on a contender," he
said. "It feels very good night in and night out to know that you
can win every game you're going into. It's healthy mentally for me."
Tisdale feels as if he is experiencing the NBA -- the real NBA --
for the first time. On Tuesday, he got off a hotel elevator in
Dallas and there were 500 people waiting in the lobby. On Thursday,
his jaw dropped when 17,281 rabid fans (admission was $1 or a can
of food) showed up at America West Arena just to watch the Suns
practice. Proceeds were donated to charity.
"I have seen Wayman Tisdale smile -- and he has a great smile --
every day," said Suns executive Cotton Fitzsimmons. "I didn't see
that when he played for Sacramento."
Actually, Tisdale has always brandished a broad smile, no matter
if he was filling up baskets at Tulsa Washington and OU or playing
in purgatory at Indiana and Sacramento.
"He's jovial and fun, even in adverse situations," Danny Ainge,
who played with Tisdale in Sacramento, told USA Today. "People
often misinterpret that. They think because he's always in a good
mood he doesn't mind losing.
"I can tell you he's a lot better player than he gets credit for.
He's never played on a winning team, ever, but he's a winner."
Playing for perennial losers put Tisdale in danger of being
But, said Phoenix coach Paul Westphal, "We never thought he was
the problem. Going against him, we knew he was one of the toughest
matchups in the league.... We couldn't find anybody that could
guard him. We had to double-team him. He's one of the best low-post
players in the league."
Tisdale's low-post skills have allowed him to play out of
position and shore up the Suns' Achilles' heel. In a home victory
over Dallas on Monday, the 6-9 Tisdale started at center and
neither of the Suns' true centers, Joe Kleine and Danny Schayes,
left the bench until less than seven minutes remained in the fourth
Westphal has started Tisdale in each of the last three games in
an effort to jump-start his shooting. A career .510 shooter,
Tisdale shot just .433 coming off the bench.
"It seemed like he was thinking about his shot too much and
putting a lot of pressure on himself," said Westphal.
In his first game as a starter, Tisdale scored 17 points (his
career average) on 7 of 13 shooting.
"Hopefully that will be his role for a while, hopefully all
year," said Westphal.
Phoenix has so many stars that playing time is hard to come by,
but Tisdale said averaging 20.5 minutes per game cannot sabotage
his newfound happiness.
"He accepts any role," said Westphal. "He's been great. He's the
least trouble of anybody on the team. He's almost too nice as far
as accepting his role."
Said Ainge, "Wayman's still trying to find exactly where he fits
in -- everybody is for that matter with all the new people. Even
the people that have been here are still trying to feel their way
around to some extent. But Wayman's going to be good for us."
Tisdale's teammate, Dan Majerle, was considered one of the NBA's
most eligible bachelors until last weekend, when he married Tina
"I was getting old," said Majerle, 29. "I met the right girl. It was time."
Thunder Dan's nuptials were held at the Little White Chapel in
Las Vegas, site of Michael Jordan's marriage.
The news created tremor-like headlines in Arizona and the Mesa
Tribune dispatched a reporter to Majerle's sports bar and grill for
reactions from heartbroken females. Said Debbie Kutzleman, 39:
"There goes my dream. I'm sad. I love Dan to death. He's always
been my little dream boy."
Don't worry Debbie. Dennis Rodman is still available -- heck,
there may even be a vacant spot on his skin big enough for a tattoo
of your name.
Charles Barkley was the grand marshal of the Fiesta Bowl Parade on Saturday.
"We better be playing real well by the time the parade rolls
around," said Barkley. "I don't want to have rocks thrown at me."
Kleine, 7-foot and 271 pounds, interrupted an interview and said,
"Chuck, I'm in the parade too."
Responded Barkley: "What are you, the float?"
Maybe Atlanta Hawks center Andrew Lang can tutor Shaquille O'Neal
on how to improve at the free throw line. Lang, a .575 free throw
shooter at Arkansas, entered this season with a .717 pro
percentage. This year, he has made 58 of 66 (.879) and is among the
Intentional irritation: Barkley invited former Dallas coach Quinn
Buckner to be his guest at the Suns-Mavericks game at Reunion Arena
on Tuesday. Buckner is viewed as a bad-luck charm by the Mavericks,
who said they felt "cursed" when he showed up at a preseason game.
By the way, the Mavs blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost by a
point.... Tisdale and his Fifth Quarter Band performed at New
Year's Eve party with proceeds benefitting the Arthur Ashe AIDS
Foundation and Phoenix Suns charities. The band recently signed a
contract with Motown and an album will be released in early 1995.
"I know there are people who believe a basketball player can't play
great Jazz," said Tisdale. "But I've been blessed with two gifts
and I'm going to carry them both out to the best of my ability."...
Oral Roberts product Haywoode Workman is no longer the Indiana
Pacers' starting point guard, but he has a better
assist-to-turnover ratio and a better steal-to-turnover ratio than
the player (Mark Jackson) who replaced him.... Former OU and Suns
standout Alvan Adams is director of operations for America West Arena.