King, Free and Purvis Short, Golden State's leading scorer last season with a 17-point average, may have trouble sharing the same ball. But they'll be welcome targets for assist-conscious Guard John Lucas. If all falls into place, the Warriors will be the surprise team of the Pacific Division.
Coach Paul Silas takes over at San Diego after a 16-year playing career, during which he got three championship rings and played in 1,254 regular-season games, just 16 short of the NBA record. Instead of pursuing that mark, Silas spent training camp like any other freshman—hitting the books. "I knew in my head what I wanted to do," he says. "But I didn't know how to put it into any plans so players could understand it. It's tough teaching new habits." So Silas studied John Wooden's Practical Modern Basketball, 2nd Ed. and writings by Atlanta's Hubie Brown on defense and Ramsay on his use of Bill Walton in Portland. Even with this knowledge, Silas isn't likely to have much longevity or success in San Diego without Walton. After breaking his foot for the third time in his career, Walton played in only 14 games last season. Silas' plan to bring Walton along slowly during the exhibition schedule lasted only 22 minutes. In the Clippers' first preseason game, Walton scored 17 points in 17 minutes while stepping gingerly. But five minutes into his second outing, something in the foot "gave." A bone scan revealed a possible fourth fracture, and Walton hasn't played since. Without Big Bill, San Diego's center is Swen Nater, last year's rebounding champion with 15 per game. The Opening Night forwards were Sidney Wicks and Joe Bryant, because Silas does not want to rush Michael Brooks, his outstanding rookie. Phil Smith seems sufficiently recovered from a nagging Achilles-tendon injury to open in the backcourt with three-point artist Brian Taylor. High-scoring Freeman Williams will be the third guard.