SI Vault
Jack McCallum
November 09, 1987
Come the playoffs, the Pistons will have the horsepower to unseat the aging Celtics in the East, but they won't be able to dethrone the Lakers
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November 09, 1987

Scouting Reports

Come the playoffs, the Pistons will have the horsepower to unseat the aging Celtics in the East, but they won't be able to dethrone the Lakers

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As soon as first-round pick Kevin Johnson takes the point guard job away from Mark Price, the Cavaliers will have perhaps the youngest starting lineup in NBA history with Johnson, 21; shooting guard Ron Harper, 23; center Brad Daugherty, 22; and forward John (Hot Rod) Williams, 26 but in only his second season, along with veteran Phil Hubbard, 30. All those young legs will help Cleveland, but not before 1990.

One of Rick Pitino's first acts after getting the job as Knicks coach was to work out some of his draft picks in early August, a transgression that earned the team a $5,000 fine from the league office. Pitino has installed the same kind of frenetic pressure defense that he used at Providence College. Whether it works or not in New York could depend on center Patrick Ewing, who's 15 pounds lighter.

The talent of the Nets —forwards Orlando Woolridge and Buck Williams and rookie guard Dennis Hopson—is superior to that of the Knicks and is at least equal to that of Indiana and Cleveland. But let's see if coach Dave Wohl can give enough playing time to his point guard duo, Pearl Washington and John Bagley, and if New Jersey is a better team, instead of merely a quieter one, without Darryl Dawkins.


A year ago at this time, prognosticators were burying the Lakers, who were coming off their Western Conference final loss to the Rockets. Let Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brandish his heavy jump rope all he wanted, everyone said: He was just too long in the tooth to carry L.A. into the 1986-87 finals.

Now, one NBA championship later, the 40-year-old Abdul-Jabbar is suddenly young again, and the Lakers are being touted—by a surprising number of observers—as the first team that will repeat as NBA champion since the 1968-69 Celtics. Says Trail Blazers coach Mike Schuler, "I don't think there's any doubt we're all playing for second place."

But the Lakers must watch out for the uh-ohs, which have already cropped up during the preseason in the form of inflammation in Magic Johnson's left Achilles tendon. The same sort of uh-ohs were heard early last season in Boston when Bill Walton broke the little finger of his left hand playing in a pickup game before training camp opened. Soon after that he reinjured his foot riding an exercise bicycle. Uh-oh, and the Celtics failed to repeat as NBA titlists.


Lakers vs. Denver: Alex English will still score, and Fat Lever will still do a little of everything for the Nuggets this season. But for a guy who will turn 31 in January, and who is coming off Achilles tendon surgery, and who, at 6'6", may be too small for his position, power forward Calvin Natt seems to figure too heavily in Denver's plans. Natt's a tough guy, but the load may be too great for him. Lakers advance.

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