?Has anything changed? "There is a different attitude," says forward Jayson Williams of his historically fractious club. "Last year at practice we were the Dionne Warwicks of basketball, always trying to use ESP to predict when practice would end. This year we practice for two hours and 20 minutes, then want to scrimmage for another 30 to 35 minutes."
?Possible savior. Rookie forward Ed O'Bannon, No. 9 overall pick in the draft, could be a steal—explosive on the court and exemplary off it. "He is the best thing that's happened to this organization in a long time," says head coach Butch Beard.
?Outlook. The Nets have talent but have underachieved. Perhaps O'Bannon can help revitalize them.
On the road to recovery
?The rookie. Is Jerry Stackhouse, the No. 3 overall pick, at the head of his draft class? Philadelphia—the team and the city—think so. At shooting guard the 6'6" Stackhouse will post up shorter defenders and act like a small forward inside.
?Second chances. Head coach John Lucas collects players other teams discard, and this year Lucas took in guard Vernon Maxwell, who had a bizarre and troubled '94-95 with the Rockets in Houston, and small forward Richard Dumas, the former Phoenix Sun who suited up for only 15 games in the last two seasons after violating the league's drug policy. "We added some players who people call at-risk guys, but we really improved our team," says Lucas.
?The point guard. The 76ers lost Dana Barros to free agency. This season Maxwell, a shooting guard in his seven NBA seasons, will run the point.
?Outlook. "Will we win the NBA championship? No," says Lucas. "But we'll improve, and we'll be in the hunt for a bottom-of-the barrel [playoff] spot."
A building before rebuilding
?The coach. After an "exhaustive" search for a head coach, M.L. Carr, director of basketball operations, named "a person who I've known my whole life." Himself. Carr, who has no previous coaching experience, is a tireless motivator, but that will only take him so far. Expect Carr, who once waved a white towel on the Celtics' bench with great enthusiasm, to wave the white flag at the end of his bedraggled team's season.