This season the Nuggets are throwing up shots at the arm-wearying rate of about 112 per game. In comparison, the Blazers, Suns and Warriors, the NBA's next most frenetic teams offensively, get off only about 90 shots each. "Terrible," "ugly" and "awful" are some of the words used by scoffers to describe the run-and-gun system of Denver coach Paul Westhead.
It should be noted, however, that the runningest and gunningest team in NBA history was none other than the 1959-60 Celtics, who did not exactly have a wild-and-crazy reputation. That Boston team averaged 119.6 field goal attempts a game en route to a 59-16 regular-season record and an NBA championship.
"We fast-broke in every situation and never stopped," says former Celtic Tom Heinsohn, who attempted a field goal about every 91 seconds he played that season.
Boston was able to run so effectively for several reasons: the defensive rebounding and outlet passing of Bill Russell, the fast-break dribbling and passing wizardry of Bob Cousy, a deep bench and the run-run-run orientation of coach Red Auerbach. But mostly the Celts ran because, in those days, everybody ran. St. Louis, for example, was known as a deliberate team that depended on the inside scoring of Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan and Clyde Lovellette. But the Hawks averaged 109 shots a game. Shooting percentages were low in that era—in 1959-60, Boston shot .417, considerably lower than today's worst-shooting NBA team, the Nets, at .435—and the philosophy was, if you can get off more shots than your opponent, you will probably win.
Conclusion? There's more than a grain of truth to the view that the Nuggets are setting back basketball 30 years.
One of the better-kept secrets in the NBA last summer was that Bucks veteran Jack Sikma was contemplating retirement because of his aching back. Sikma, who along with the Pistons Bill Laimbeer, is one of the few centers in NBA history to be a genuine three-point threat, missed 10 games of the '89-90 season because of his back and continued to have trouble with it through most of the summer. It wasn't until late August that Sikma told Milwaukee coach Del Harris that he was sure he could come back.
By that time Harris had taken out two insurance policies on Sikma, getting forward-center Frank Brickowski from the Spurs and center Danny Schayes from the Nuggets. Many observers (including this one) thought it odd that Harris was stockpiling so many big men, but concern over Sikma was the reason. Things couldn't have turned out better for the Bucks, who have been surprising title contenders in the Central Division: Sikma is now healthy, Brickowski and Schayes have become major contributors, and last week Harris dealt his least productive big man, forward Greg (Cadillac) Anderson, to New Jersey for a decent fourth guard, Lester Conner.