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New York, Utah to Meet in Final; Jets Trade for Johnson

By Mike Duffy
and Andrew Heitner

Sports Columnists

We begin with a recap of the important events of the NFL draft. The first surprise on Sunday came when the Jets, with literally five seconds on the clock, traded their number three pick to Phoenix for their four pick and running back Johnny Johnson, letting the Cards take running back Garrison Hearst and then picking linebacker Marvin Jones.

The Jets needed both running and linebacking, so their masterful trade brought them great benefits, praying on the Cardinals' known desire for Hearst. But the trade also worked out well for Phoenix, who assured themselves the right to select the best back in the country in exchange for a player they probably would have had to trade or cut sometime in the future if Hearst pans out. The Cards could make trouble in the NFC East with an offense featuring Hearst, Steve Buerlein, and Gary Clark.

Jimmy Johnson rebuilt the Cowboys into a Super Bowl champion primarily through shrewd dealings and signings on draft day. The Boys were seemingly inconspicuous this year drafting in the last spot, but managed to pull off some great moves that will keep Dallas on top this season. Because all the starters are returning from last year, the Cowboys didn't need an impact player, and wisely traded down, giving Green Bay a first and a fourth rounder for two second, fourth, and eighth round picks, including speedster Kevin Williams from Johnson's alma mater, Miami. With the its draft additions, Dallas should be more stacked than the room that hosts Cowboy Cheerleader tryouts.

For those of you with scorecards wondering where some of the big-name college stars went to: "Papa" Gino Toretta, last year's Heisman trophy winner, wasn't selected until Minnesota had enough pity to draft him in the eighth round (192 overall). So much for those members of the Downtown Athletic Club, who forgot to read Let's Argue, and voted Gino in ahead of Garrison Hearst (our selection for the award).

The last Heisman trophy winner who was picked that late, though, was Roger Staubach in the 10th round of the 1963 draft. At least Roger had the excuse of having to serve time in the Navy before entering the NFL. Elvis Grbac from Michigan, who made a career out of throwing to Desmond Howard went in the 8th round (fifth last player chosen) to San Francisco, and linebacker Travis Hill, from Nebraska, went in the seventh round to Cleveland...

NBA playoffs underway

With the NBA playoffs underway, we offer our humble opinions and post season awards. We will not stray from our pre-season selections, unlike every other fickle scribe in America, and will pick a New York--Utah final. Although we would not want you to run to Vegas and bet the farm on it (as these are not Vix Picks), here's how it will happen:

Eastern Conference. First round: Knicks over Pacers in four. Smits, Schrempf, and the rest of Hogan's Heroes will exit early. Celts in five over the Hornets. Although LJ and Alonzo will have their fun, the weak backcourt of Charlotte will be their undoing. Bulls over the Hawks in four. Hawks have had a great run over the last two months of the season, but the Air Jordans will prevail. Cavs to sweep the Exit 16 W's. With Kenny "Franchise"' Anderson and Chris Dudley sidelined for the playoffs, the Nets will quickly be ushered out.

In the second round, we predict the Knicks in six over the Celts. Even His Reggieness and the antics of "Fat Boy," the Celts unofficial mascot, cannot slow down Ewing and company. Cavs in six over Chicago. Much to the dismay of the NBA and NBC front offices, the Cavs will prove that they are not hairdressers and finally beat the Bulls in a playoff series (for the record, they have won three of the last four games versus Chicago, thereby proving they can win in the second city). The acquisition of Gerald Wilkins will allow the Cavs to use him, Ehlo, and Sanders continously in order to keep constant pressure on both Jordan and Pippen. Besides it's too easy to pick Da Bulls all the time.

In the eastern conference finals, the Knicks will previal in seven. Homecourt advantage for the Knicks will be the difference in this series. Avent, Mason, and Starks look forward to making a rap video once the finals are over.

Western Conference. The entire conference is on a slide, especially compared to the stretch run in the East. Still, someone has to win The West.

In the first round, the Suns in three over Lakers. KJ will likely miss this entire series because of nagging injuries. It shouldn't pose a big problem here, though, as Lakers sub-.500 home record says it all. Spurs in five over Blazers. In what should be the most exciting series in the first round, Drexler's health is the reason for Portand's early exit.

The Paper Clips in five over Houston. Although the Rockets have been the best team since the all star break, they have struggled since Vernon Maxwell went down with an injury. The Clips will play aggressively, as they have nothing to lose, and will surprisingly emerge from this series as the victors. Utah over Seattle in four. The unpredictable ways of the Sonics and Coach Karl will lead to a Jazz upset.

Suns in six over the Spurs in the second round. Lucas' magic will wear out, as Sir Charles will run rampant in San Antonio and the Alamo with the Suns moving on. Utah to spank the Clips in five. Slumbering Mark Eaton will awaken to lead the Jazz to easy victories.

The Jazz will win the championship in six. The size of the Mailman will pose a major matchup problem for the Suns, as will a healthy Stockton matched up with a hurting KJ. Phoenix has relied on its offense all year, but their relatively weak half court defense will be exposed in this rugged series.

We picked the Knicks in six back in November, and there is no reason to change now. The tough, albeit not pretty, brand of ball utilized by New York will pay the same kind of dividends it did for the Nasty Boys a few years back. The Western Conference, on the whole, is not as strong as the East, thereby allowing your humble scribes to confidently to say that the East will again bring home the trophy...

With the firing of Detroit's Coach Rothstein, look for the Dominoes effect to start as Wes Unseld of the sorry Washington Bullets and Randy Pfund of the LA LA Lakers will be fired next week (the Lakes will be bounced out of the playoffs by Wednesday)...

We send the NBA into the second season with our post-season Virgilio awards.

Most Valuable Player

1. Sir Charles Barkley, Phoenix (25.6 ppg, 12.2 boards)

2. Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston (26.1 ppg, 13.0 boards)

3. Patrick Ewing, New York (24.2 ppg, 12.1 boards)

4. Michael Jordan, Chicago (32.6 ppg, 221 steals)

5. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta (29.9 ppg, 6.8 boards)

The perennial debate in MVP balloting in any sport -- the definitions of "valuable," to give the award to the player with better statistics or the one on the better team -- hold true in the NBA this season. While a good argument can be made for Olajuwon (slightly better numbers on a worse team), Barkley has shown the whole package this year. Of course the Rockets are not a 55-win team without The Dream, but Phoenix is not close to being the best team in the NBA without Sir Charles. Ewing's vindication for not being the MVP is an NBA title. Wilkins had a great year, considering he played the early part of the season with injuries. He has also finished second in scoring for the seventh time in the last eight years.

Coach of the Year

1. Rudy Tomjanovich, Houston

2. Pat Riley, New York

3. Lenny Wilkins, Cleveland

4. John Lucas, San Antonio

5. George Karl, Seattle

Pat Riley is again passed up for the award, because Tomjanovich has done nearly as well with less talent. This is always the knock on Riley, although this is his sixth 60-win season in 11 years coaching, and many coaches have squandered talent better than the Knicks. Riley made some masterful changes to the starting line-up throughout the season and is a great motivator. Still, no one gave the Rockets a prayer at the start, and Rudy has guided them there.

Rookie of the Year

1. Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando (23.4 ppg, 13.9 rebs., 56.2% fg)

2. Alonzo Mourning, Charlotte (21.0, 10.3, 271 blocks)

3. Tom Gugliotta, Washington (14.7, 9.6, 3.8 assists)

4. Walt Williams, Sacramento (17.0, 4.5, 3 assists)

5. Clarence Weatherspoon, Philly (15.6, 7.2)

The Shaq was a run-away winner from the start, though he tired towards the end of what would have been his senior year. Mourning was impressive, putting up big numbers and leading the Hornets to the playoff promised land, despite holding out with a guaranteed $1 million from Nike for the first three weeks of the season. Gugliotta proved that he is not the next Larry Bird, but he deserves a much better team than the Bullets. Spoon proved he can jam with the best of them.

For honorable mention in a strong rookie crop: Harold Miner, Anthony Peeler, Robert Horry, Jimmy Jackson, and Christian Laetner. Jimmy Jackson gets a mention for leading the Mavs to six wins in 20 games, when they could muster only four out of the previous 62. No one, including your humble scribes, likes Laetner (who bulked up over the summer by carrying bags for the Dream Team), but gets mentioned because of his big numbers (18.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg).

Bonehead play of the week

This week we turn to the New York Mets clubhouse for this feature's fodder. Met outfielder Vince Coleman, practicing for the upcoming Memorial Tournament, tagged Dwight Gooden in the shoulder while swinging his nine iron in the Met locker room a couple of hours before Gooden was scheduled to pitch to the Dodgers last Monday night. Gooden was scratched from the lineup with a bruised shoulder, acquired by "bumping into something," the Mets said.

Race for futility

Dave Justice (0-5), with five whiffs versus Pittsburgh Monday night and six consecutive whiffs over two games, was still six short of the major league baseball record (see Trivia). Bruins and Blackhawks played as if they were auditioning for Disney On Ice, as they were swept by fourth places times. Finally Eric Davis and Don Mattingly had a batting average lower than the blood alcohol level of your humble scribes as we wrote this article -- .087 and .077 respectively...

Chris Sonne '91 sends us his favorites from Houston, Texas (see Rumblings for more): Henry "Avo" Cotto, George "Taco" Bell, Eddie "Eat, Drink, and be" Murray, Barry "U.S." Bonds, and Steve "Rainbow" Trout.

Trivia question

Who holds the Major League record for striking out the most times in a row. Send answers, comments, and predictions for how long Conan O'Brien will last as Letterman's replacement to sports@the-tech.

Answer to last week's question: Seattle Pilots (Brewers), Milwaukee Braves (Atlanta), Washington Senators (both the Twins and Rangers), and the St. Louis Browns (Orioles). Kudos to Rob Juba G, Jonathan Sigman '95, Aaron Cohen '96, and Frank DiFilippo G for getting the right answers. They all win the following: a Colorado Rockies barbecue apron and Minnesota Twins barbecue spatula. All they need to do is show up on June 20th in Denver and July 2nd in Minneapolis and purchase a game ticket. They will be personally handed their gifts from one of our many secretaries.