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Orlando MagicDenver Nuggets


By Barry Cooper | Sentinel Staff Writer
Sunday, December 30, 1990 | Home Game

This morning the NBA can begin clearing space in the record books because, now, Scott Skiles belongs. The Orlando Magic guard, talked about all over town and loving every second of it, racked up an NBA-record 30 assists Sunday night in the Magic's 155-116 rout of the Denver Nuggets.

So what if the incessant trade rumors about Skiles' going to the Detroit Pistons prove to be false? Skiles, who admits he loves to perform under pressure, is a player forever in search of a stage, and he found a magnificent spotlight Sunday.

Kevin Porter, who registered 29 assists with the Nets in 1978, previously held the mark, but Skiles tied the record with 6:57 left on a feed to Jerry Reynolds, who dunked.

Then came some tantalizing moments at Orlando Arena. The announced sellout crowd of 15,077, informed by the public-address announcer, knew Skiles was in reach of the record, and they cheered his every move. The Magic were ahead by 40, but that didn't matter. All the fans cared about was seeing Skiles make history, and they agonized as Skiles, needing just one more assist to set the record, hit the open man eight times, only to see his teammates miss.

On three occasions, Reynolds drove to the basket rather than immediately take the shot that might have given Skiles the record. Reynolds later said he had been unaware Skiles needed one more assist.

Finally, with 19.6 seconds left, Reynolds took a pass from Skiles, pulled up and dropped in a 20-foot jumper. Reynolds, as he always does, turned and nonchalantly ran back on defense. But Skiles broke into a broad grin, pointed to Reynolds and nodded his head. Reynolds grinned, too.

"I guess everyone in the arena knew but me," Reynolds said. "My shot hadn't been falling, and that is why I was driving to the basket. Then Scott came up to me and said, 'Hey, just shoot the ball. Help me get the record.' "

There wasn't any question that Skiles, who also had 22 points, was going for the record once he found out he was close, and coach Matt Guokas helped by leaving Skiles in even though the game had become a blowout. In the fourth quarter Skiles had 13 points and six assists.

"Right now I am on top of the world. I am just in a state of shock," Skiles said.

The 39-point margin was the most lopsided victory ever for the Magic (7-23), but it came against an easy opponent. The Nuggets (6-23) were without four injured starters, and the game was little more than a 48-minute layup drill for Orlando.

It also was a perfect chance for Skiles to showcase himself for Pistons assistant coach Brendan Suhr, who was scouting the game.

Magic General Manager Pat Williams tried his best to squelch rumors that Skiles is on the verge of being traded to the Pistons. He denied that any talks have taken place. Suhr, top assistant to Pistons coach Chuck Daly, tried to kill the rumor, too. He insisted he was in Orlando only to scout the Nuggets, even though Denver obviously is the worst team in the league right now. The Nuggets play Detroit on Wednesday.

It was the second night in a row that a Pistons official had seen the Magic play. Pistons General Manager Jack McCloskey watched the Magic lose Saturday at Charlotte, 109-100. His presence at the game gave some credence to a pair of rumors that have the Pistons sending All-Star guard Isiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Manning and a first-round pick that the Clippers have obtained in a previous deal. Then the Pistons would trade the first-round pick to the Magic for Skiles.

Suhr scoffed at suggestions that the Pistons would deal Thomas, one of the great point guards in NBA history.

"I guarantee you that if we move somebody, it won't be Isiah," Suhr said.

Still, rumors about a deal for Skiles persisted. There was a report that the Magic are asking for Pistons reserve center William Bedford and two second-round picks. Bedford, 27, 7 feet 1, 235 pounds, is a talented young player whose career has been sidetracked by bouts with drugs and other personal problems. But he hasn't gotten a chance to play with Detroit, and some NBA coaches think he could develop into a decent player if given a chance. He was the No. 6 pick in the 1986 draft by Phoenix.

Williams said the rumors were just that.

"I haven't talked to Jack McCloskey in two months," he said. "Why would we trade Scott Skiles with the month he has had? This is the best place for Scott Skiles. Where else is he going to get this kind of playing time?"

An offer from the Pistons apparently wouldn't be the first made for Skiles this season. The Sacramento Kings, who were in dire need of a point guard, are said to have offered backup center Bill Wennington and two second-round picks but were turned down by Orlando.

Orlando Magic guard Scott Skiles (right), who broke the NBA record for assists with 30, beats Nuggets rookie guard Chris Jackson down the court in Orlando on Dec. 30, 1990. (GARY BOGDON/ORLANDO SENTINEL)


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