NO JERSEY JOKES: In 7'6" center Shawn Bradley and 6'10" power forward Jayson Williams, the Nets have two budding giants. Combined, they averaged more than 18 rebounds and four blocked shots for last season's 30-52 team. In Kendall Gill the Nets have a solid shooting guard. Assuming he stays healthy, Robert Pack should be at least serviceable as Chris Childs's replacement at the point. In the preseason Calipari liked what he saw of guard Kerry Kittles, the team's first-round draft pick.
EDDIE O, TAKE YOUR SHOT: Calipari hoped free-agent signee David Benoit would be the answer at small forward. But when Benoit went down for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, Ed O'Bannon, who was disappointing as a rookie, suddenly began showing the sort of play that led the Nets to make him their first-round draft pick in '95.
BACK (COURT) TO THE FUTURE: Spectacular but turnover-prone rookie point guard Allen Iverson, 21, the first player picked in last spring's draft, and second-year shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse should feed nicely off each other. Along with Philly's new arena, the CoreStates Center, they at least give Philly's long-suffering (five straight losing seasons) fans reason to show up.
A MIXED BUSSING? Power forward Derrick Coleman, who was sidelined for all but 11 games last season by an irregular heartbeat and a sprained ankle, has declared, "I'm ready to make myself known to the people of Philadelphia." Hmmm. Coleman might learn by watching the effort of underappreciated small forward Clarence Weatherspoon.
THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT: Coleman's weight, his sulking and a propensity for injuries; the inexperience of rookie coach Johnny Davis; 34-year-old Michael Cage starting at center...and so on. The 76ers appear to be headed in the right direction, but the distance between Philly and New York is a lot farther than it looks on the map.
LOOKING FOR LARRY: Under shrewd top executive Red Auerbach, the Celtics were always able to find fresh superstars to replace those who departed. However, now they're essentially a team of nonentities. Or, to put it another way, nobody has ever viewed forward Dino Radja, last season's leading scorer, as the second coming of Larry Bird. "We're still looking for that one-two combination that can contend with, say, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen," says coach-director of basketball operations M.L. Carr. First-round draft pick Antoine Walker might eventually fill one of those one-two vacancies.
CALLING RICK PITINO? The Celts have two chances to match last season's 33-49 record: slim and none. They have quantity at both shooting guard ( Dana Barros, Dee Brown, Rick Fox and Greg Minor) and small forward (Fox, Walker and Eric Williams), but there's not enough quality to keep them out of the cellar—or Carr in his coaching job for long.