During his initial two NBA seasons for the Spurs, Vernon Maxwell was Larry Brown’s project at the point guard spot.
With Brown taking away ‘a license to shot’ from the ‘natural born shooter’ Spurs #11 was expected to bypass his scoring proficiency and dish the rock to his teammates.
But every now and then, when Brown wasn’t exactly looking at his way, Maxwell would find some space and launch a jumper, doing what was natural to him as a player.
Brown wasn’t exactly happy and over the time he became aware that his project was a failure. Spurs got rid of Maxwell selling him to Midwest Division rival Houston Rockets on February 21st, 1990.
Just 190 miles East, in Houston, Texas, Maxwell would immediately get a chance to showcase his scoring abilities for the Rockets led by superstar Hakeem Olajuwon, playing alongside the legendary Eric Sleepy Floyd.
He would start the last ten games of the 1989-90 campaign and average 15.2 points, 7.5 boards and 3.2 dimes while playing 37.6 minutes per game during that span.
Maxwell’s great play continued in the 1990 postseason, in which the Rockets were eliminated by the Lakers (3-1) but energetic guard proved his worth against Magic & Scott, averaging 19.8 points, 4.3 boards, and 3.0 dimes while playing 39.8 minutes per contest!
Rockets obviously liked what they have seen from Maxwell in the closure of 1989-90, which secured his place in the 1990s Rockets championship plans, along with another incumbent guard – Kenny Smith!
Already in 1990-91, both Maxwell and Smith would have their breakthrough NBA season for the team coached by the 1991 NBA Coach of the Year – Don Chaney!
Their great backcourt potential energized the much-improved squad, especially in the first two months of 1991 during which Olajuwon was out with the injury to his eye socket.
But Maxwell and Smith, combined with Otis Thorpe, Larry Smith, and Buck Johnson would just not let the 1990-91 Rockets to roughly land down as the Olajuwon-less team won as many as 15 out of its 25 games during that span!
One of those games is specially engraved in Maxwell’s memory of his entire NBA career.
On January 26th Cleveland Cavaliers, which were without their standard starters Mark Price and John Williams, were in town. From the early going, matched up against Craig Ehlo, Maxwell felt that this could be his huge night.
At the end of the third quarter visiting team led by 71-65 with Cavs high-flying forward Larry Nance leading all scorers with 22 points in the contest. But Maxwell was not too far behind having scored 21 of his own.
But then Max Max accelerated and took over the game in an unbelievable fashion – he felt that he have an edge, so he was not hesitant to take it all the way to the hoop for an easy deuce or launch a long distance shot.
He hit 14-25 field goals (4-10 threes) and 19-22 shots from beyond the charity stripe for an unbelievable total of 30 points in the fourth quarter and 51 in a game, to lead the Rockets to a 103-97 win in the Summit.
As of 2016-17 season only 9 NBA players ever scored 30 or more points in a single quarter, Maxwell is one of them. Even more so, he is the only NBA player ever, besides two legitimate G.O.A.T. candidates – Wilt Chamberlain (1961-62) and Michael Jordan (1988-89), who did it in the fourth quarter alone!
For the 1990-91 season, Maxwell averaged 17.0 points, 2.9 boards, 3.5 dimes, and 1.5 steals, while leading the League with 172 three-pointers made with 33.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor. The 1980s and 1990s basketball specialist is also proud to be the author of the TOP 100 basketball biography ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ (‘Drazen – Godine Zmaja’) which reveals the yet untold details from the life and career of the legendary NBA shooting guard Drazen Petrovic.
He resides in Zagreb, Croatia, working on his third book which tells the untold story of the 1989 Green Card Five.