For the right to
sign Scott, the Suns sent Forward Paul Silas to Boston. Silas was an
exceptional defender, rebounder and leader: Suns rookie Corky Calhoun will only
replace his defensive ability. Former Bullet Gus Johnson is attempting a
comeback on his often-injured legs and if he progresses well enough for the
Suns to carry him as a substitute during the year, he and flashy Connie Hawkins
and steady Center Neal Walk could persuade Phoenix fans to forget Silas'
rebounding as well.
Thurmond and 6'10" Forward Clyde Lee make rebounding a Warrior strength.
Thurmond also shores up Golden State's defense by playing the league's two top
centers. Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar, better than they play each other. The
Warriors have strong shooters in Cazzie Russell and Jeff Mullins. Last season
Golden State finished second in the Pacific because of two new assets: Al
Attles stopped playing to concentrate on coaching and proved he is excellent at
it, and the Warriors finally found a floor leader in Jim Barnett. Still, Owner
Franklin Mieuli was dissatisfied. He continued his relentless quest for wayward
Warrior Rick Barry, and for a time it seemed that Barry would be happy to leave
the ABA Nets to return to the Bay Area. In June a court ordered him to honor an
old contract with Mieuli and by early August it was reported the two had made a
deal. Then Barry suddenly announced he would quit basketball and pursue a TV
career if Mieuli did not allow him to stay with the Nets. Typically, Mieuli did
not give in. Shortly before the start of the season, he flew to New York for
more bargaining with Barry. "I'm going to get my boy." he said as he
headed East. And he did just that. With Barry, the Warriors will be contenders
for the NBA title as well as the division's.
In Seattle, there
are enough interleague transfers for the Sonics to be known aptly as the ABA
All-Star team. New Coach Tom Nissalke was Coach of the Year last season with
the ABA Chaps. Three of his players—Spencer Haywood, John Brisker and Jim
McDaniels—have followed similar routes to the NBA. Haywood and Brisker are both
explosive forwards, but McDaniels appears to be out of his league. He is too
slow to play defense at forward and not rugged enough to rebound at center. At
one point the Sonics tried unsuccessfully to deal him and his $1.5 million
contract back to the ABA Cougars from whence he jumped. Throughout the
exhibition season there has been speculation among NBA coaches that Nissalke's
best center is Haywood, not McDaniels. Playing Spencer there would also open
more playing time for strong cornerman Garfield Heard and rookie Bud
Seattle is deep at
guard with Dick Snyder, Lee Winfield, Butch Beard and Fred Brown, a rookie
disappointment last season who shed 20 pounds during the summer and directed
the Sonics well in exhibitions. But the team's best backcourt man is gone. The
trade of former player-coach Lenny Wilkens, who was popular with Sonics players
and fans, was an obvious attempt to strengthen Nissalke's hand, but it surely
weakened his team on the floor. Seattle is talented but young and needs a
steadying influence like Wilkens. If one of the younger guards matures to fill
that role, the Sonics would boom. More likely, they will be the first of the
Pacific's strong foursome to fall from playoff contention.
noncontender in the division is Portland, but the Trail Blazers will improve.
They now have stable coaching from Jack McCloskey, late of Wake Forest, who
should be able to evoke mutual recognition on the floor from Guard Geoff Petrie
and Forward Sidney Wicks, Rookies of the Year for Portland the past two
seasons. The Blazers have a promising new center, but not the one they planned
on. They picked Loyola of Chicago's skinny, 6'11" LaRue Martin first in the
draft and paid him $900,000, even though the highest offer from the ABA was
$700,000 less. He is now second string while third-round draftee 6'8" Lloyd
Neal, a heavier and cheaper man from Tennessee State, will start.