One wonders how enthusiastically NBA veterans Edwards, who has two championship rings, and guard Doc Rivers will perform in reserve roles. But coach Mike Schuler plans to start Olden Polynice at center and a possibly rejuvenated Gary Grant, who lost 25 pounds during the off-season, at the point. With guard Ron Harper and forwards Charles Smith, Danny Manning and Ken Norman, the Clips definitely have the talent to be a playoff team, but they still have to find the formula to put it all together.
No team did more extensive off-season remodeling than Atlanta, which parted company with six established NBA players (Rivers, Moses Malone, John Battle, Spud Webb, Tim McCormick and Sidney Moncrief). Star forward Dominique Wilkins admits that adjusting to all the new faces is difficult for him. And it's going to be even more difficult if the young backcourt of Rumeal Robinson and rookie Stacey Augmon can't get him the ball.
Do we shed a tear for Dallas, now that talented frontcourtman Roy Tarpley has taken a called third strike in his battle with drugs and alcohol? Or do we blast the Mavs for staying with the troubled star too long? Dallas had better hope that young Doug Smith can compensate for some of Tarpley's lost talent. If he can't, this will be a franchise on the way down.
One of the best lines of the exhibition season came from New Jersey coach Bill Fitch: "We've got a long way to go just to get us to last year, and last year was good enough to get us into the lottery." So why will the Nets improve on their 26-win season of '90-91? Because Rookie of the Year forward Derrick Coleman will be even better, Anderson will eventually sign and make a difference (not a large one at first, but a difference), and guard Drazen Petrovic will make an impact as a scorer.
Here's one to take to Vegas: Sacramento will improve on its road record of 1-40 last season. (The Kings should be no worse than, say, 5-36.) When the competitive Richmond meshes his game with that of second-year forward Lionel Simmons, and when Webb gets comfortable running the offense, this will be a franchise on the way up.
The team has stuck to its plan of building with young players. And that strategy will begin to pay off this season when holdout guard Sherman Douglas signs, permitting rookie Steve Smith to work his way into the league at a more studied pace.
Coach Matty Guokas had hoped that Roberts would help. But when he reported at 315 pounds and did not deliver much in the exhibition season, it was journeyman center Greg Kite to the fore once again. Barring a vast improvement from swing-man-shooter Dennis Scott, Orlando will not match its 31 wins of last season.
What mastermind in the front office chose this season to unveil the new slogan, "You gotta believe"? What Washington coach Wes Unseld has to believe is that he'll be lucky to win 25 games, five fewer than last year. As this season began, forwards Bernard King and Mark Alarie and rookie guard LaBradford Smith were injured, John Williams had been suspended for being overweight, and Unseld seemed to be losing patience with guard Ledell Hackles. The good news in Washington? Boy, those Redskins really look like a Super Bowl team.
The kind of half-baked, full-court comic relief provided by coach Paul Westhead's shoot-within-four-seconds attack of last season is over, and a plan to build the offense around center Dikembe Mutombo is in place. Pencil this guy in for Rookie of the Year, and pencil in last season's worst team (20-62) for a few more wins.
Former coach Bill Musselman is gone, and so are the shackles around the legs of open-court-oriented point guard Pooh Richardson. Only one hitch—Musselman's boring system was the main reason Minnesota overachieved its way to 29 wins last season. Good luck, new coach Jimmy Rodgers—you're going to need it.