ST. LOUIS HAWKS
Trouble right here in River City
As usual there is a new coach in St. Louis to greet a new season. This time it is Harry Gallatin and Harry is going to be in for some blue evenings. The return of Len Wilkins from the service will help the Hawks in the backcourt but, as Gallatin says, "Our greatest need is for a quarterback—a guard who can size up the situation and call the play. I hope that Wilkins can take over this job, but in the past he has showed a reluctance to do so." If Wilkins doesn't, the Hawks will have to hope that Nick Mantis, formerly of the ABL, or Rookie Bob Duffy will. Up front St. Louis still has hard-working Bob Pettit, a good scorer and a fine rebounder. Cliff Hagan can score too, but his lack of height (6 feet 4) is a liability. And the Hawks' three Untouchables are now only two. Clyde Lovellette is gone. Injured last season, he reported even slower this fall. The Hawks had seriously hoped he would regain his old form, and his loss hurts. Replacements Phil Jordan and Charlie Tyra will be of little help, so the Hawks' top-draft pick, Zelmo Beaty of Prairie View, must come through. He is fast, but he is at least a year away from being of genuine assistance. St. Louis is hoping that the ABL folds swiftly so that they can acquire Bill Bridges and Gene Tormohlen from Kansas City. If it doesn't, Hawk owner and master promoter Ben Kerner better depend on jazz bands and dancing girls to please his customers. His team isn't likely to.
They go on and on and...
Massachusetts has the Kennedys and the Celtics, and it doesn't look like there is ever going to be a loser in the lot. The Celts won their fourth straight Eastern Division Championship last year without breaking into an honest sweat. Over the past two seasons they have beaten their present foes in the East—the Royals, Knicks and Nats—52 times while losing only 16, and this year the team is as strong as ever. Bob Cousy, playing his 13th and last season, is cavorting like a college freshman. He won't see as much action as a year ago, but he is still the man who can control the ball in the tight spots. Tom Sanders and Tom Heinsohn are sound scorers and rebounders, and Coach Red Auerbach, who issues his commands from behind a screen of dense cigar smoke, may have succeeded in convincing Heinsohn to stop smoking in order to stay in better shape. The Jones boys, Sam and K.C., are fast and deft as ever. Injury-prone Frank Ramsey is already limping with a sore heel, but an aching Ramsey is better than many guards. Looking for the least chance to break into the lineup is one of the NBA's best rookies, Ohio State's 6-foot-5 rugged All-America, John Havlicek. The Celtics' lone weakness is too much dependence on their great Center Bill Russell. Clyde Lovellette has been acquired from St. Louis to aid Russell, but if anything should happen to Bill, the Celtics are in trouble. If Russell stays healthy, it's five in a row for Boston.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Good reason to hope, at long last
For the first time in recent memory there may be a professional professional basketball team in New York. The Knicks, who have not had many happy winters, have had a very encouraging summer. They got an excellent guard, Gene Shue, from Detroit for Darrall Imhoff and $20,000, neither of which the Knick management will miss. Shue can move a ball club, can shoot, and gives the backcourt better ball handling than it had all last season. Coach Eddie Donovan also has some new help around the backboards, with baseball pitcher Gene Conley and Ken Sears both back in the NBA after a year in the ABL. Donovan is just the type of coach to spur on the often diffident Sears, something that his predecessors couldn't do. Conley, although not much of a scorer, is excellent under both boards. Rookie Paul Hogue (from the University of Cincinnati) is also going to be able to adapt himself underneath. His speed is barely adequate, but he is strong and he scores well from close in. He may be the center the Knicks have long lacked, though he will need a season to get used to the NBA. Guard Richie Guerin and Forward Willie Naulls, who were the sixth and seventh scorers in the league last season, should be even better because they now have help. Backing up the starters are USC's agile John Rudometkin and Donnis Butcher, a seasoned NIBL player. This is the NBA's most improved team, but it had a lot of improving to do.
The team with a forward look
Getting one good player a year out of the NBA draft is considered a major achievement, which makes it all the more startling that Syracuse seems to have come up with three. Hulking Len Chappell (from Wake Forest) combines just enough speed with mounds of muscle and a good shot to be a help at forward. For reasons they are already regretting, no team picked 6-foot-7, Jaguar-fast Corner Man Chet Walker (from Bradley) in the first round of the draft. Finally there is third draft choice Porter Meriwether (from Tennessee A&I). With Hal Greer and Larry Costello, Syracuse needs guards like the Yankees need a center-fielder, but Meriwether moves so well the team may end up carrying five backcourt men just to keep him. Greer is starting the season with a severe charley horse and a calcium deposit in a thigh muscle, but he looks as fast as ever. A more serious ache is the one in the knee of that alltime, all-pro Dolph Schayes. He very much wants one big year before retiring, and the Nats need it from him. This would help offset the problems at center where Johnny Kerr offers more teamwork than scoring punch. Chappell will be used occasionally at center—but only out of dire necessity—and Syracuse may eventually join Detroit in trying to work out an offense using three forwards and no pivot man. With the rookies and Dolph, they have the corner men to do it—and Syracuse has its best prospects in some time.
Lots of running, but mostly down