by | Jun 12, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

PORTLAND, Ore. — Buck and Duck are in a pluck.

And out of luck.

Oh, such a muck.

But wait — they’re built like trucks!

In other words, lemme get this straight: Buck Williams and Kevin Duckworth, who together stand nearly 14 feet tall and weigh at least 3,420 pounds (230 for Williams, 3,190 for Duckworth) spent most of their half hour with the national media Monday complaining about the acting ability of Bill Laimbeer, and how big bad Bill fooled all the referees into thinking he was really being tossed halfway across the floor in Game 3 by Portland’s assorted elbows and knuckles when in fact, they were nothing more than basketball love taps.

“He’s a flopper,” said Duckworth, who seemed infatuated with the subject.
“I just stuck my arm up and he fell. He fakes it so well. That’s his thing. When he’s doing his act and the refs are falling for it, you can’t win. When Buck touched him this one time and they called a foul, I knew we were in trouble.”

Williams nodded. “He’s King Flop,’ he said.

Hmmm. This reminds me of a guy I knew in grade school named Kenny Lewko, who was one of those kids who shaved every morning, even though we were only in third grade. And one time, we were playing this game called Dodge Ball in which you throw the ball at someone who is trying to get away from you, and Kenny Lewko was about three feet from this little girl named Linda Sue, who was, if my memory serves me, about the size of lunchbox. And Kenny threw the ball with all his strength and Linda Sue literally lifted off the ground like a small plane and flew about nine feet. She came down in a tiny heap and began to weep. As they led Kenny Lewko away, presumably to prison, all he kept saying was “What’d I do? I didn’t do nothin’!”

Which is pretty much what Buck and Duck were saying all game Sunday.

Nobody listened to them either.

Which only goes to prove what many of us have said for years: Bill Laimbeer, can’t live with him, can’t kill him. But then, everything is relative. Let us examine the size of the “innocent” men in question, shall we?

Buck Williams, the power forward, is one of those tall, sleek, supersonic athletes whose muscles have muscles and whose body fat level is approximately the same as, oh, say, Mahatma Gandhi after a juice fast. Also, Buck is known for his aggressive behavior under the boards. So when he appears to grab Bill Laimbeer by the throat and throw him to the ground, well, I don’t know, “love tap” is not the first word that comes to mind. Ejection, maybe.

As for Duckworth, the center? Now here is a body you don’t see very often. How can I describe it? Fat? Two people could give him a massage and never meet one another. The man should come with a lobby. What’s his training meal, a bowl of donuts? And such a friendly face stuck on top of all that poundage! He looks like he should be off in the corner of some prison yard, lifting weights.

I am sure the Duckster is a nice guy, in between meals. But let’s face it, when he is involved in a foul, he is not likely to get much sympathy from the refs, who are staring into his arm pit.

And yet, Monday, he was inconsolable.

“Every time you touch Laimbeer,” he moaned, “he makes it look like you knocked the hell out of him. We just gotta hope for different refs, that’s all.”

Of course, you may remember a similar statement made by the Pistons after Game 3 against New York, or Game 6 against Chicago, or Game 2 against Portland. It seems that most teams whine about the refs after a loss. To be honest, I thought the Pistons were — with the exception of Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas — pretty darn good whiners themselves. That was before I met the Duck.

But wait. Here comes Laimbeer.

“Bill,” the reporters ask, “what do you think about Buck and Duckworth saying you’re a flopper?”

“Not true,” he says. “My body is bruised.”

“Why would they accuse you of flopping?”

“Must be my charming personality.”

“What does their complaining tell you?”

He smirked. “It tells me they lost.”

Exactly. And something else. It tells you Laimbeer got to them. He crept under their skin and began to itch. By the end of Game 3 Sunday, it seemed all Portland was interested in was getting Laimbeer, like those mad scientists at the end of James Bond movies. GET BOND! GET BILL! They came after him. Every chance they got. He responded by outrebounding them, drawing five offensive fouls, and generally driving them crazy. It was one of the best games Laimbeer has ever played, and this is a man who can’t run or jump.

“The bottom line is we won,” he says.

Right. If I were coach Rick Adelman, I might tell my guys you don’t win championships by complaining about another player’s acting abilities. The Blazers might do better to study defensing the Detroit guards, or taking more judicious shots. But only if they want to win.

Otherwise, they could come out ready to whine again tonight. But referees are funny; sometimes, the more you cry, the more they whistle you. In which case, despite their pluck and all their cluck, Buck and Duck . . .

You’re stuck.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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