These three teams may have their moments, but they'll be scrambling to make the playoffs.
Jack Ramsay, 61, sounds like a kid again. "I like this team," he said of his INDIANA PACERS. "They have a good fiber to them." Fiber doesn't get you points from the outside, however, and the Pacers are still a bit irregular in the back-court. Witness the fact that Detroit cast-off John Long was greeted like a savior at the off-guard spot.
Wayman Tisdale will be a versatile forward in Ramsay's system, but Clark Kellogg's uncertain status after knee surgery is an area of great concern. At the very least, though, the Pacers will improve enough under Ramsay that Bobby Knight will not make disparaging remarks about them, as he did last season.
Player to watch: Chuck Person. If Ramsay turns him loose, he'll be rookie of the year.
The SAN ANTONIO SPURS won only four games in the last month of the '85-86 season. Goodbye Cotton Fitzsimmons, hello Bob Weiss. Mychal Thompson, acquired from Portland, provides added versatility inside, and top draft pick Johnny Dawkins combines with Alvin Robertson and Johnny Moore to give the Spurs one of the most exciting three-man backcourt rotations in the NBA.
But let's face it—the Spurs aren't going far with aging Artis Gilmore, who just turned 37, at center and rookie Kevin Duckworth as his backup.
Player to watch: Mike Mitchell. He must add another dimension to his offense if he's to become a top NBA player.
For a guy who played only 11 games last season because of illness and injuries, Derek Smith attracted an unusual amount of off-season attention as a free agent. Seven teams were interested in him, including the SACRAMENTO KINGS, who finally got him. If Smith stays healthy, he has a chance to be superb. The Kings, on the other hand, do not. They'll need improved play in the pivot from the LaSalle Thompson-Joe Kleine combination to match last season's 37 wins in a tougher Midwest Division.
Player to watch: Reggie Theus. He had a good season last year, but some feel Theus lacks the respect of his teammates.
CLOSE TO THE VEST
New York, Cleveland