The consensus in the NBA is that Gilmore is not only with a team perfectly suited to his talents, but also in the conference where his abilities will pay off most handsomely. In the Eastern Conference, many of the centers—notably Dave Cowens of Boston and Bob McAdoo of Buffalo—play like oversized forwards; the true centers, such as Los Angeles' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Seattle's Tom Burleson, Detroit's Bob Lanier and Walton, are in the West. And now so is Gilmore. He will be picking on someone his own size, rather than chasing after the gnats.
The Midwest Division was the worst in the NBA last season, with Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit all performing dismally. Now they should be much tougher, and the Midwest (which adds both Denver and Indiana from the ABA) should again have the sort of bruising race that was a division tradition until a year ago.
Piston Coach Herb Brown is not that familiar with pro personnel, having joined Detroit only last season, so he spent the past few weeks checking out Barnes. Brown is convinced that Barnes is a bad actor—but only because he becomes downcast when his team is not successful. "From the reports I get, he really wants to win," says Brown. "He's a heck of a competitor. He was the guy we wanted all along, but I was really afraid that we weren't going to get a shot at him."
In St. Louis Barnes committed a number of minor transgressions, but he attracted special notoriety when he quit the team early in the 1974-75 season. He then returned to lead the Spirits to an upset victory over the New York Nets in the playoffs. "That convinces me that he is a great player," says Brown.
Barnes will play forward in Detroit, where Center Bob Lanier is as well established as General Motors is. And this season Lanier will get some unaccustomed rest as a result of the Pistons' selection of Alabama's 6'9" Leon Douglas in the college draft. Together, Lanier, Douglas and Barnes probably can bench-press the Midwest Division.
Of the 20 players available in the dispersal draft, eight did not get picked. Most prominent among them was Steve Green, a good-shooting rookie forward with Utah and St. Louis last season. Green carried a $100,000 price tag, and the NBA teams apparently considered him to be no bargain. Green and the others who were not selected are now free agents.
This was the second dispersal draft in NBA history. In 1950 the Chicago franchise folded, and the names of its best players, Max Zaslofsky, Andy Phillip and Bob Cousy, were put into a hat. The Celtics plucked out Cousy, which turned out to be a bit of sleight-of-hand worthy of the selectee himself. That was the first step in building the Boston dynasty, a fact not lost on the teams that last week were hoping the death of the ABA would allow them to come alive.