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WHERE WAS CHAMBERS?

It was almost half time of the final game with the Portland Trail Blazers. Until now I hadn't realized how badly Tom Chambers was playing. Then Kevin Johnson hobbled off the court after suffering an injured hamstring tendon. It was at this moment I realized that Chambers must play a pivotal role if the Suns were to win. Where was Chambers, I wondered. At this point, I realized Chambers had been playing, but had yet to score a single point during the entire first half. I watched the screen and saw Chambers walk off the floor at half time wearing his usual blank stare. Terrific. That expression matched exactly the number of points Chambers had put on the scoreboard in the first two periods. "I feel Chambers will get his game going in the second half," Hubie Brown, the CBS analyst, was saying. Brown's job made it imperative that he be optimistic. CBS was doing a half-time special on Chambers. Then Leslie Visser of CBS came on the screen. She said something about Chambers being "a very selfish player." What else is new? And then there was footage of Chambers saying "My game has really blossomed." Gerald Henderson, a former teammate of Chambers at Seattle, explained that, more than anything else, Chambers always wanted to score. We all know that by now. For Chambers, there's nothing else to the game. And finally, there was Kevin Johnson in a pretaped segment. He said of Chambers: "I didn't like him the first time I saw him play. I thought he was the most selfish player I'd ever seen." Then Chambers' face filled the screen. "I'm happy I now have the opportunity to show what I'm all about," Chambers said. I was afraid we already knew but refused to admit we understood clearly what Chambers "was about." Chambers had a distant look on his face. He is almost like a cybernetic man. He reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. There seems to be nothing inside except wires. I started to watch Chambers closely during the second half. If the Suns were going to win, he was the man who would have to do it for them. Besides, if you make more than $1 million a year, you owe something to your teammates and the franchise. The first time Chambers got the ball in the second half, it was stripped from him by Buck Williams of Portland. The second time, he missed an uncontested fifteen-footer. In the next two minutes, he scored on a fast-break lay-up and then on an easy shot underneath when the ball fell into his hands. But then things got worse. Chambers moved around the court almost as though in a daze. There was no fire. He seemed to possess no desire to win, merely to go through the motions. A few minutes later the ball was stripped from his hands again. Then on his next three possessions, he merely passed the ball back to the Suns player nearest him. Chambers seems uninterested and possibly incapable of throwing a pass that will lead to a direct basket by a teammate. He passes only so the ball can be passed back to him for a shot of his own. In the fourth period, with Phoenix on the verge of winning, the Suns got no help from Chambers. Certainly, they got no inspiration. The Portland players kept blocking his shots, taking the ball out of his hands, pushing him away from the boards. He missed simple jumpers and drive shots that could have been easily made. How could a player of Chambers' shooting skills keep tossing up air balls in the biggest series of the year? How could he keep allowing the Portland players to steal the ball from him? Wouldn't you think that after a while he would get wise to the fact that they were trapping on him each time he put the ball on the floor? And this incredible lethargic Chambers' performance went on that way right until the final seconds of the game. With 23 seconds left to play, Eddie Johnson put the ball into play from outside. The score was 110 to 109 with Portland leading. The ball got into Chambers' hands with fourteen seconds left. He turned and, once again, put the ball on the floor. The results were predictable. The Portland players were waiting for him. They snatched the ball from his hands. They turned it into another fast-break basket, and the score was 112 to 109. Portland was headed for the finals. The Suns were headed for the showers. Chambers will have the summer off. Why should he worry about playoff money? He already makes more money than he needs. I thought about it all for a while. I'll tell you how haphazard and lackadaisical I think Chambers' play was in that final game. If it had been the old days when players made normal salaries, people would have been screaming that Chambers had been on the take to the gamblers. But, of course, that can't be true. What's there for Chambers to take? He already has all the money he can possibly spend for the rest of his life. So he didn't throw the game. Chambers' problem is, however, just as serious. He has become so rich he no longer cares. There seems to be nothing inside Chambers except wires.

If it had been the old days when players made normal salaries, people would have screamed that Chambers had been on the take.

THE GAMMA KNIFE... v6-06-90

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Tom Fitzpatrick