So, how do you beat the NBA jinx—the failure of any team to repeat as champion since the Celtics did it in 1968 and 1969? The LOS ANGELES LAKERS might do it this way: with a center named Abdul-Jabbar, who at 38 has once again drunk deeply from his personal fountain of youth and looks like a million dollars. And a point guard named Magic, who, with fewer nagging injuries than Larry Bird, may supplant his Celtic rival as MVP. And a small forward named Worthy, who some time soon will leap, stuff and on the way down gracefully accept the aerial acrobat scepter passed by Julius Erving.
And, with a Scott and a Cooper and a Rambis, and a Spriggs and a Kupchak and a half-court trap, and a fast break and a Riley and a Maurice Lucas, and an all-purpose draft pick named A.C. Green. Jinx? Schminx.
Slowly but surely, the PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS have been plugging the residual leaks from the controversial five-for-the-price-of-Kiki trade. They drafted Terry Porter, everybody's choice for best first-round dark horse, which in effect makes him a non-dark horse. They acquired veteran center Caldwell Jones, who has been playing tough D practically since the turn of the century. And they also expect Sam Bowie to develop as a force at center.
People are talking about the Blazers becoming Clyde Drexler's team, but Kiki Vandeweghe will have something to say about the offense, too, sometimes too much.
The LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS are a great team for autographs. Marques Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, Jamaal Wilkes, Junior Bridgeman—established NBAers all. And then there's their best player, Derek Smith. So what's not to like? Nothing on paper. But last year the Clips looked good, too, and didn't make the playoffs. Some observers say that an unhappy Bill Walton, since traded to Boston, was a major part of the problem. Still, only Smith was consistent, and Johnson's season, in the words of coach Don Chaney, was "terrible."
The Clips are counting heavily on two castaways up front (Maxwell and Wilkes) and a rookie center who some naysayers think will turn out to be the dog of the first round (Benoit Benjamin). An uphill struggle.
A change to an up-tempo style may make the PHOENIX SUNS the best track team in Arizona, but it won't be enough to lift them a notch in the division. The estimable Walter Davis appears to be healthy for a change, but the Suns didn't improve themselves noticeably with first-round draft choice Ed Pinckney and certainly didn't benefit from an acrimonious contract dispute with All-Star forward Larry Nance (who still hadn't signed as of Sunday).
Fans of the SEATTLE SUPERSONICS will feel much cozier this season with the move from the cavernous Kingdome back to the Seattle Center Coliseum. New coach Bernie Bickerstaff might share the feeling if there were more frontcourt help for game but tired standard-bearer, Jack Sikma, and his prize rookie, Xavier McDaniel. This may be the last season for off-guard Al Wood, an eight-year veteran, to prove himself. This is a team that needs to make a deal.
When the GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS matched a Milwaukee Buck offer sheet for center Joe Barry Carroll, they did it partly through a loan to Golden State owner Franklin Mieuli from former Buck owner James Fitzgerald. There's nothing like biting the hand you once fed. Carroll, who last year plied his trade in Italy, would make anyone's all-enigma team, but his attitude might improve. Chris Mullin, the rookie southpaw, hadn't signed as of Sunday. With Mullin or without Mullin, Golden State will finish in last place.
After a year's vacation in Italy, Carroll may not be ready for the NBA's rougher seas.