COACH: RED AUERBACH
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 588, LOST 350
Yes, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman are a year older but this is still the finest basketball team ever assembled. Last year the Celtics had 17- and 7-game winning streaks and easily won their fourth consecutive Eastern Division championship. They look even better this season. Jim Loscutoff has recovered completely from a slipped disk operation, and a full season of Loscutoff adds power up front. This also permits Red Auerbach to use Frank Ramsey as a sixth man instead of as a starter. So Ramsey will again be the most dangerous substitute in the NBA. Bill Russell can hardly improve on defense and gets better every year on offense. Boston's first draft choice, Tom Sanders, has rebounded and scored well in exhibition games and he may be an alternate starter before the year is over. The Jones boys (Sam and K.C.) may play alternate quarters with Cousy and Sharman this year, a system that worked well in last season's playoffs with Philadelphia; they would be first-string anywhere else in the league. Tom Heinsohn is now an authentic All-Star, an intense, all-round competitor, and Gene Conley adds defensive and rebounding strength up front. Often undervalued, too, is Auerbach's tested skill in handling his players. Boston is best in the back-court, best in the forecourt and undeniably the best in the Eastern Division.
COACH: ALEX HANNUM
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 56, LOST 47
The fastest backcourt in the league—rapidly becoming one of the slickest as well—and the still magnificent Dolph Schayes are Syracuse's chief claims to a playoff spot this season. The guards are Larry Costello, Hal Greer, Dick Barnett and Al Bianchi, the last two somewhat erratic, but all good ball handlers and breakaway runners. After a year of seasoning, Barnett should begin to perform close to the potential of his excellent change-of-pace maneuvers and long-range shooting. Schayes, in his 12th season, may be a half step slower than he was, but his intense competitiveness easily compensates for this. In the other corner, sadly, there is no George Yardley this year. George has retired, and the best New Coach Alex Hannum can hope for is, "Maybe we can replace him with three men of varied ability." The three will come from among Bob Hopkins, Barney Cable, Joe Roberts, Cal Ramsey and Dave Gambee, all strong, capable men but none with Yardley's rare scoring touch. In the pivot, Johnny Kerr is often surprisingly effective against the Russells and Chamberlains, just as often does poorly against weaker rivals. Swede Halbrook, 7 feet 3, will spell Kerr adequately after he becomes familiar with NBA personnel. Hannum has an aggressive, inspirational style. He seldom fails to get the most out of players. It's an edge Syracuse will need.
COACH: NEIL JOHNSTON
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 49, LOST 26
Wilt Chamberlain was chiefly responsible for the NBA's 23% rise in attendance last season and totally responsible for Philadelphia's rise from fourth to second place in their division. He scored 50 or more points in seven games, more than 40 in 28 games. He set records in ebounding, total points and other important categories, and though he still does not play basketball with any apparent enjoyment his pride pushes him to peak effort. Even with Wilt, however, the big step for the Warriors—from second to first place—seems beyond their abilities. Their first five may be a match for Boston, but the bench is not. Guy Rodgers and Tom Gola are a nice blend of playmaking, speed and scoring in the backcourt. Paul Arizin has few equals up front, and ex-Hawk Ed Conlin should play more here than he would have played in St. Louis and thus has a good chance of regaining the fine form he showed two years ago with the Syracuse Nationals. But the hectic pace of pro ball demands topflight bench support and Philadelphia's is only so-so. Joe Graboski, Andy Johnson and Vern Hat-ton don't save ball games the way Boston's substitutes do, and they don't win many on their own. The Warriors were not able to beat either Boston or St. Louis over the season last year and they will not do it this time. In a short playoff series, however, they might beat anyone.
NEW YORK KNICKERBOCKERS
COACH: CARL BRAUN
LIFETIME NBA RECORD: WON 19, LOST 29
There is no better example than the Knicks of the fact that a winner in pro ball must: have a big, mobile, intelligent center. The Knicks have everything else, and they have finished last in their division in three of the past four seasons despite excellent use of their strength and fine tactical attempts to cover up this one weakness. They now have rookie Darrall Imhoff to alternate with Charlie Tyra, but all Imhoff's training has been in West Coast control-style ball and he has a lot to learn. Tyra improved considerably last year, especially in his outside shooting, but still does not handle the ball well. Elsewhere, this club is certainly sound. Willie Naulls and Kenny Sears shoot and rebound with the best. Sears put on some weight during the summer, should not weaken by midseason as he has in the past. Rookie Dave Budd and Mike Farmer are strong alternates. Richie Guerin is one of the highest-scoring guards in the league, defends well and is beginning to fill the role of playmaker with speed and deception. Jack George is a capable sidekick for him, and rookie Bob McNeill has a nice outside shot. Kelly Coleman comes to pro ball from Kentucky Wesleyan with the reputation of being hard to handle and a marvelous shooter. In exhibitions thus far he has shown neither trait. The Knicks will do well to finish third.