The Indiana Pacers are one of those shrug-your-shoulders teams with shrug-your-shoulders players. They're not bad, they're not good. Point guard Vern Fleming? Shrug. Center-power forward Steve Stipanovich? Shrug. Power forward Wayman Tisdale? Shrug. Small forward Chuck Person? Well, with a talented enigma like him, you don't shrug. You throw up your hands and scream, "What's with this guy!" Even if Person comes back strong and 7'4" rookie center Rik Smits is not the pits, the Pacers will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs.
Congress should do something about this. The Washington Bullets begin the season with Dave Feitl as their starting center. Coach Wes Unseld has installed a modified version of Denver's motion offense, which may free Jeff Malone and Bernard King. Then again, it may close them down.
It should be a fun season for the New Jersey Nets' Willis Reed, who gets to coach Walter Berry. You'll recall that Berry's departure from San Antonio was hastened by his comment about the Spurs' hiring of Larry Brown. Said Berry, "He is a fundamentally sound coach, and my game does not consist of fundamentals." Here's news, Walter: Reed is fundamentally sound, too, and he'll only use you if you produce. The season shapes up as one more frustration for standout forward Buck Williams.
With veterans like Kelly Tripucka and Robert Reid to go with rookie Rex Chapman, the Charlotte Hornets should at least be better than Miami, the league's other expansion team.
Don Nelson, the Golden State Warriors coach, is working on a new version of the alley-oop. It calls for the guards to throw the ball off the backboard and into the hands of either 7'4" Ralph Sampson, if he stays around—trade rumors abounded during the preseason—or 7'7" Manute Bol. But trick plays aren't going to get the Warriors into the playoffs.
And to think that Larry Brown was sure the Navy would let David Robinson out to play for the San Antonio Spurs. The Navy said no. Because of the Robinson decision, Brown is forced to start the season with Petur Gudmundsson at center.
Look for coach Jerry Reynolds of the Sacramento Kings to use a variety of combinations, while he hopes that Derek Smith stays healthy and that his two top draft choices, Ricky Berry and Vinny Del Negro, can contribute.
Reality now sets in for the Los Angeles Clippers. As of last weekend, rookie forward Danny Manning was unsigned, although another rookie forward, Charles Smith, is in the fold, and the Clippers' third first-round choice, guard Gary Grant, has looked good. The Clips are about to discover that good draft picks aren't enough.