Either Jack Ramsay lost control of the PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS last year or the Blazers quit on him. Whichever it was, new coach Mike Schuler has a lot of work to do if the Blazers are to rejoin the NBA's elite.
Portland needs a personality transformation. Maybe Sam Bowie will suddenly turn into a bully in the middle. Maybe Kiki Vandeweghe will become a classic power forward. Maybe Clyde Drexler will shoot the two-handed set. Or maybe Portland will win 40 games again and fade like a lamb in the first round of the playoffs, as it did last season.
Player to watch: Walter Berry. Portland needs points and rebounds from the St. John's rookie who missed much of the preseason dickering over salary.
A wise off-season decision was made by Dave Wohl, who turned down management's offer to be coach and general manager of the NEW JERSEY NETS. One job is enough to handle with this unpredictable group, thank you very much. As Otis Birdsong said after one loss last year: "We played hard, but it was a lackadaisical hard." Around Exit 16 of the New Jersey Turnpike, that makes sense.
The Nets appear to be stronger after acquiring Orlando Woolridge from Chicago, but that's no certainty. The back-court reins will be in the hands of a rookie, Pearl Washington, and with Birdsong unsigned as of last week, it's anybody's guess who will step in at off-guard.
Player to watch: Darryl Dawkins. Just because Darryl Dawkins has always been worth watching.
Detroit, Utah, Dallas
These teams made major changes and should be significantly better.
The DETROIT PISTONS have been on a treadmill for the last three seasons with 46, 46 and 49 wins. So general manager Jack McCloskey made some bold deals to rebuild his frontcourt. He traded for Adrian Dantley and Sid Green, and drafted John Salley and the little-known Dennis Rodman. The Pistons were ready to give up on Salley after a disastrous rookie camp, but he has been improving.
Can Isiah Thomas, who had off-season thumb surgery, adapt his open-court style to the post-up play of Dantley? That's the main question. If the answer is yes, Detroit could challenge Milwaukee and Atlanta. If not, then Motown is going to be no town for Dantley.