Washington vs. Boston: The
drafted 5'3" Muggsy Bogues to push the ball up the floor. Fine. So who will he pass it to once he gets near the basket? Bernard King seems the logical choice. He became a Bullet on Sunday after accepting a two-year, $2.1 million offer. King's presence beside two other All-Stars, Moses Malone and Jeff Malone, will make Washington a dangerous team if coach Kevin Loughery can blend all the talent and if King's bad left knee—the injury that kept him out of action for virtually all of the past two seasons—doesn't collapse. Boston advances.
Detroit vs. Chicago: The day before this series opens, Piston forward Dennis (the Mouth That Roared) Rodman will announce that he's going to hold Jordan to fewer than 10 points. Jordan will smile and go for 60. It still won't be enough. Now that center Bill Laimbeer has learned some back-to-the-basket moves, Detroit's inside game will be too much for Chicago, which is counting on Dave Corzine, who shoots from the outside, and aged Artis Gilmore, who can't shoot at all, in the pivot, Detroit advances.
Boston vs. Atlanta: The
confront a couple of tough obstacles this season. First, rather than being the new kids on the block, as they were in '86-87, they're coming off a 57-win season, and some experts are predicting they'll prevail in the East. Second, they run the risk of stagnation that sometimes sets in when a team stays with a pat hand, as Atlanta has done. But Mike Fratello isn't the type of coach who tolerates anyone standing still. He'll keep bringing players off the bench—John Battle (watch out for him this season) for Randy Wittman and Spud Webb for Doc Rivers at guard, Antoine Carr for Wilkins or Kevin Willis at forward, Jon Koncak for Tree Rollins at center—until the Hawks come to life. Says Cleveland's Wilkens, " Atlanta is physical, and agile. That's a rare combination."
So why do we like the old guys over the young guys? Because the Hawks have yet to show that they can beat the Celtics when it really counts. We'll wait one more year. Boston advances.
Detroit vs. Boston: Who knows what the
will look like seven months from now. If Larry (Hardbody) Bird stays hale, his scoring average may be near 30 points a game. If Kevin McHale's screw (the one that's holding his left foot together, that is) doesn't come loose, he'll still be the best back-to-the-basket player in the league. If Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge can...wait a minute, does this sound familiar? It should. Once McHale gets back in action (just a guess: He'll pick the Dec. 11 game with the Lakers at Boston Garden for his return), the Celtics' starting five will still be as good as any in the league. And suddenly the addition of versatile 7-footer Brad Lohaus, a rookie from Iowa, brings the Boston bench up to the level of respectability.
unquestionably have the talent to win the East, but given their volatile mix of personalities and styles, do they also have the temperament? Yes. Chuck Daly is a good coach whose time has come. He will be tested this season, faced with the tasks of keeping both of his top scorers, Adrian Dantley and Isiah Thomas, happy and trying to keep Rodman out of trouble.
Rodman and 7-foot center-forward John Salley have changed Detroit, not only verbally but also defensively. When one or both are in the game, Thomas and his running mate, Joe Dumars, can gamble on defense and get away with it. On offense, the Pistons can run for minutes on end, or they can slow it down and clear out for Dantley, or they can simply hand the ball to sixth man Vinnie Johnson and let him shoot.
In Game 7 of the conference finals at Boston Garden last season the Pistons were behind by a point near the end of the third period when Dantley, in pursuit of a loose ball, cracked heads with Vinnie Johnson and had to leave the game. "Why did you pick then to dive for a loose ball for the first time in your life?" Dinitri Dantley asked her husband. Well, this time the Pistons will be more prepared when they crack heads with the Celtics. It should be a rock-'n'-rolling series for these new rivals, just the kind they like in Motown. Detroit goes to the NBA finals.