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LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Easy winners in the West last season, the Lakers have strengthened themselves to a point where Coach Fred Schaus believes he now has so much versatility with 10 men he won't even carry the 12, although permitted to by league rules. The Lakers were pleasantly surprised when the two players they wanted in the college draft. Gene Wiley from Wichita and LeRoy Ellis from St. Johns, were passed up by other clubs. Wiley, at 6 foot 10, is not a scorer, but the Lakers thought he could contain the league's other big men. He has looked superb on defense so far. Ellis can score, and has a cheery exuberance to match his quickness; he now seems to be able to get the ball and hold on to it. The Lakers came within inches of winning the NBA championship without an adequate center last year. They appear to have corrected the weakness. Elgin Baylor, the league's best all-round player, is free of the Army once again, and can join scoring sidekick Jerry West full time, a prospect that horrifies foes. West, normally a guard, may get some action as a corner man, because two other guards, Frank Selvy and Hot Rod Hundley, have looked very sharp in exhibition games. There is also the competent Rudy LaRusso, who has proved he is a steady corner man. The Lakers have the offense, the defense and the youth not only to win the Western Division almost as they please but to construct the next dynasty in professional basketball.
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SAN FRANCISCO WARRIORS
When a ball club is assured of 50 points in every game from one man it is bound to win more than a few. The Warriors, newly moved to the West, have such a fellow in Wilt Chamberlain, but they don't have much else. Wilt probably will improve on his 50-point average this year and still get his 25 rebounds, presuming he finds he can get along with Bob Feerick as well as he seemed to with Frank McGuire last year and doesn't go into a case of the Stilt sulks. Feerick, meanwhile, has not only had to abandon the tight defensive game he taught his college teams at Santa Clara, but finds himself coaching a squad that was plunged into a tough exhibition schedule with hardly so much as a single practice session. The exhibition games did two things. They proved what nobody guessed about Rookie Hubie White from Villanova—that he just won't do, so Guy Rodgers, Al Attics and Tom Gola are the backcourt once again and not one of them has an acceptable outside shot, and they showed that Wayne Hightower, now in the NBA after a year of barnstorming in Spain, will need some time to become a suitable starting forward. Meanwhile, second year man youngster on the squad and its strongest corner man—broke his wrist and will be sidelined about a month. Consequently, even more than last year, the Warriors area one-man team. Wilt will win some, but he can't beat LA alone.
The one-year-old Chicago Packers have a new name (Zephyrs), a new coach (tough Jack McMahon), a new general manager (baseball trader Frank Lane), only two players left from the ill-sorted group that started last season, high hopes and one big problem. The problem is 6-foot-9 Bill (The Hill) McGill, the Zephyrs' first draft choice. McGill came out of Utah as one of the sharpest shots in college history. But the pros don't give him the split second he seems to need to get set, and he is a disappointment to date. The Zephyrs' second "draft choice, Terry Dischinger, will only play on weekends until he completes his master's degree at Purdue in January. In the meantime, All-America Dischinger is practicing patterns and moves prescribed for him by McMahon. One of Chicago's big faults last season was that it didn't shoot enough and McMahon is trying to eliminate that weakness. John Cox, who played in the ABL last season, is a good outside shot at guard and Woody Sauldsberry comes from St. Louis with five years of pro experience; both should help. The big man, however, is still Walt Bellamy, who last season averaged 31.6 per game, shot .513, was the league's third best re-bounder and its rookie of the year. Last year the Packers lost $250,000. To meet their budget of $380,000 they must average 4,200 fans a night. This club might draw them, especially in the second half of the season. It is a patsy no more.
"I don't know what we'll do without Gene Shue," says Coach Dick McGuire. "I never would have made the trade." All of which indicates McGuire's future may be limited, and his team's, too. The loss of Shue at guard (via a trade to the Knicks after he fell into disfavor with Piston Owner Fred Zollner) leaves Detroit with a backcourt of gunners and dribblers. Best of the musketeers is Don Ohl, who may be joined as a starter by Rookie Kevin Loughery of St. John's. At center, sometimes clumsy and always inconsistent Walter Dukes will get help from sometimes clumsy and always inconsistent Darrall Imhoff, who came in the Shue trade. This leaves it all up to the forwards. Fortunately, as a group they are among the league's best. Bailey Howell and Ray Scott are two experienced starters and the drafting of a hometown rookie, Dave DeBusschere, may push Detroit into a three-forward offense. McGuire says the era of the big center is going out, unless the center is a Chamberlain or Russell. The trend is to three forwards instead of a pivot man, he claims, but his voice sounds wistful. DeBusschere shoots well and would fit into such an offense, but he must learn to drive for the basket. His rebounding must also improve if there is no big pivot man. "We don't have a real star," says McGuire. "We have a good, well-balanced team, but when you need that big play in the fourth quarter, balance won't get it for you. Elgin Baylor will."