Can coach Chuck Daly keep everyone happy?
Not really. The Pistons will have their pitched battles now and then. Vinnie Johnson may be upset when he sees that his sixth-man magic isn't quite so important anymore. And there will be nights when storm clouds form on the face of Adrian Dantley after he calls for the ball inside and doesn't get it. But some teams—the Pistons are one—can handle this kind of tension and even thrive on it.
From first man to 12th, Detroit is the best team in the NBA. It has Dantley to score, Isiah Thomas to pass, Joe Dumars to do both, Bill Laimbeer to rebound, Rick Mahorn, who has apparently recovered from back surgery, to bully. The opposition gets no relief when Daly goes to his bench—John Salley, Dennis Rodman, James Edwards and Johnson come at you hard. "The biggest problem on this team is getting everybody minutes," says Daly. And that includes Michael Williams, a rookie out of Baylor, as well as good ol' Double-D, the one and only Darryl Dawkins, who checked into training camp at close to 300 pounds but has shed 15 and has played well.
No, the Pistons will not disappear because Atlanta got Moses Malone. You will find them next June—winning their first NBA championship.
Can Moses be a tour guide to the promised land?
Perhaps. But the inner and outer strength that helped Malone become one of the most indomitable forces in league history has certainly lessened. That is the main concern of the multi-talented Hawks, who enter the season with high expectations—most pegged to Malone.
Never mind whether there will be enough basketballs to satisfy Atlanta's two new acquisitions, Malone (signed as a free agent for $5.86 million over three years) and Reggie Theus (acquired for Randy Wittman in a trade with Sacramento), as well as reigning superstar Dominique Wilkins. Whatever their reputations, all three want to win, and coach Mike Fratello will likely convince them that they must share the goodies to accomplish that. The more relevant issue is whether the addition of Malone, who will be 34 by season's end, makes the Hawks stronger than the Pistons. The answer here is no.
Are the Celtics really going to run this season?
Yes. The Five Wheezy Pieces that have constituted the sum and substance of the team the last four seasons—Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, Larry Bird and Robert Parish—all gratefully acknowledge the arrival from UC Santa Barbara of rookie point guard Brian Shaw, who, as the 24th pick, may have been the steal of the draft. Shaw will try to get those old Celtics duffs in gear. He has the ability and, more important, the leadership qualities to do it.