Suitably goggled, Abdul-Jabbar made his first start in New York. Costello hadn't expected to use him quite so quickly, but after the Knicks' center, John Gianelli, scored five quick points against Warner he made the decision. In went Abdul-Jabbar to hold Gianelli to just four more points, to score 17 himself, to haul down 10 rebounds and block four shots. The Bucks won 90-72.
"My legs were great but I got winded," said Kareem. "I asked Larry to take me out at the end. I played scared. I just wanted to get through without any incident. Am I going to continue to wear the goggles? Of course. I'm down to my last pair of eyeballs."
Milwaukee returned home to lose to Los Angeles 105-102, and then beat divisional rivals Kansas City- Omaha 102-99 and Chicago 101-99 in double overtime. That lifted the Bucks' record to 6-14, which is not as bad as it might seem, for no one else in their division is playing much better. Through last Sunday, Kansas City- Omaha was 12-10, Detroit 11-10 and Chicago 10-11.
"With Kareem playing the last seven weeks we'd be sitting up there nice and loose," said Costello. "We've been lucky no one else is running away from us. Now we have to go to work."
Costello never stops working, and usually when he isn't adding something new to his offense, he is thinking of adding something new. He puts in new plays and then demands execution. It is tough on the players, especially the new ones.
"It's not complex," says Costello.
"It's complex all right," says Dandridge.
Like Abdul-Jabbar, Dandridge has been with the Bucks since 1969. "What seems easy to Costello is very difficult to a lot of players," he says. "If we lose, he switches us up—calls it simplifying the offense. In my five years the basic offense has never changed. It's just that there are so many options. A guy just coming in, seeing a new offense every third day, he gets confused."
Dandridge was standing beside the court in Milwaukee watching some of his teammates take extra shooting practice. Cornell Warner came into the arena.
"What are you doing here?" Dandridge asked.