That fact alone does not make the Celts better than Detroit or Atlanta. New coach Jimmy Rodgers will use a nine-man rotation, but reserves Brad Lohaus, Mark Acres and Reggie Lewis cannot match the bench strength of the Pistons or the Hawks.
Can the Cavs be considered an elite team?
Coach Lenny Wilkens says no, but the answer depends on your definition of elite. If it means a team that can make a serious run for a conference championship, then we say yes.
Look at the NBA's top 20 scorers last season and you'll see no one from Cleveland. Yet the Cavs have starters and subs who can score—forwards Larry Nance and John Williams, guards Ron Harper and Mark Price, and center Brad Daugherty. In marked contrast to Chicago, Cleveland's real rival this season, the Cavs rely on balance.
The only question for Cleveland is leadership. Price is competitive but quietly so. Harper has Jordanesque moves but not Jordanesque maturity. Nance has never been considered a leader in his seven years in the league. Daugherty, who just turned 23, is young. But if the Cavs get on a roll, the leadership will take care of itself, and the team without a real star will shine.
Are we to believe that trading power forward Charles Oakley made the Bulls stronger?
No, unless center Bill Cartwright, who was obtained from the Knicks in the deal for Oakley, has found a fountain of youth that will remove several of his 31 years and soothe the many injuries that have curtailed his playing time over the last three seasons. Remember what the Bulls have to live up to—they finished third in the conference last season, behind only Detroit and Boston and ahead of Atlanta.
Gee, wonder how they did that? Well, MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Michael Jordan might have had something to do with it, and he should be just as good this season. However, he'll miss Oakley and, for a while, versatile second-year forward Scottie Pippen, who begins the season on the shelf after undergoing offseason back surgery. Even if Cartwright stays healthy and gives the Bulls an offensive threat who gets opposing centers in foul trouble—something Chicago has had difficulty doing in recent years—it is hard to see how the Bulls can duplicate their 50-32 finish of last season.
6 NEW YORK
All right then, do we believe that getting Oakley made the Knicks stronger?
No doubt about it. But the addition of a power forward to take some of the blue-collar load off center Patrick Ewing does not suddenly make the Knicks the toast of Broadway again. The rebuilding program of general manager Al Bianchi and coach Rick Pitino is going well, but the wildly optimistic preseason predictions about this team are premature.