Everybody roots for David, nobody pulls for Goliath.

Re: Everybody roots for David, nobody pulls for Goliath.

Postby rawr123456787654 » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:47 pm

The Lakers coast to a giant win and shake tremors through the entire league. With Goliath now firmly established, only a handful of David's seem fit for the challenge - but then again, you don't usually know who's going to be the hero until it's already happening, right? This year on Inside a Team we're going to head back East to one of the teams that's really had to force their way into the spotlight to fight for recognition. And while they're not all the way there yet, I've got to admit, they surprised me in a number of ways this past season. So sit down, grab a drink, and join me on a trip up north with this year's "Inside a Team - the Cleveland edition".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The end of the 6 game series against Detroit was expected, but it wasn't easy none-the-less. Bill Laimbeer, who'd mentioned in a conference leading into the post season how he still had some feelings towards Cleveland for choosing Calvin Natt at 5 instead of himself (he'd gone 6th to Detroit which in retrospect had worked out splendidly, but by his account the team had agreed to take him 5th), exploded for a post-season high 36 points, 2 steals, 3 assists, 4 blocks, and 23 rebounds as the Pistons won 117-101, closing out the series 4-2. Richard Washington, the 1981 6th man of the year, led Cleveland with a game high 16. It was embarassing to every fan at Richfield Coliseum.

Still, they'd done their best. The team had just barely scraped into the post-season over Washington at 29-53, down 10 wins from the season before as Randy Smith grew out of his prime and Joe Meriweather left for Phoenix, and had managed to push #1 Detroit into a 6 game series. By all accounts they'd blown everyone out of the water. "Not everyone, though. Mr. Stepien wants wins. He wants them now, no matter how hard it is and how short-term that success ends up being." I'm sitting in the office of Jesse Owens - yes, 4x gold medalist Jesse Owens - who's been the general manager of this team for the past 6 seasons. This was the 5th time the team had made the post-season in that span, but still, it was hard to argue they were exactly improving. After bringing on Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond as head coach the summer before, they'd hoped to rise up in the comparatively weak Eastern conference, but instead were worse than ever. "He won't fork over the money for big agents, he's insistant we build through the draft. And we're trying, for sure."

Luckily they got some big help in the 82 draft. With the 8th pick, Cleveland was lucky enough to snag Lafeyette - aka Fat - Lever out of Arizona State. They brought on 31 year old Ron Behagen, a power forward (his 8th NBA team) for the second unit, but missed out big on George McGinnis - Stepien wouldn't budge on a contract. So after losing the opening night game against Chicago 117-111 at Chicago Stadium (John Long with 31 points, Calvin Natt with 24 and 11) Jesse Owens did the only thing he could - he went for a trade. Jerry Colangelo agreed to send Truck Robinson and Phoenix's 1983 second round pick for 6th man of the year Richard Washington, Sonny Parker, and Cleveland's 1985 1st round pick (after Phoenix coach Johnny Kerr made the choice to move Truck to the bench in lieu of the young and on the rise Cliff Robinson). Cleveland lost again their next game out, John Drew's 41 carrying Atlanta to an easy 96-81 win, but Truck showed he could fit into this squad with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Maybe this could be their special year.

Now the starting squad was starting to look pretty good. Fat Lever came in as the point guard, ready to show the whole league why he should've gone in the lottery. Randy Smith came in at shooting guard - now 34 years old, this was still a guy who held Cleveland's record for most points scored in a game with 57; he was nothing to trifle with. Calvin Natt, while perhaps not as good as rival Bill Laimbeer, had shown he had the tenacity to rival some of the other great small forwards in the league, while Truck Robinson had managed to stay in the All-Star conversation for the past six years, always just barely getting edged out by someone else or injury. And last but not least - Jeff Ruland. The husky 6'10 center from Iona had been a surprise pick at 7th for the Cavs, one that Owens claims nearly cost him his job, but in his past 2 years he's shown he's more than worth it, finishing the past season averaging 14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds on just 28.0 minutes played per game. With guys like Frank Johnson, a sophomore point guard with a chip on his shoulder and a desire to prove himself as elite, Ron Behagen, a journeyman sick of making laps around the league, Billy McKinney, who'd been the team's point guard for the past two seasons but was more than willing to be one of the leaders off the bench, and Kelvin Grevey, who was one of the most versatile wings in the league, all ready to give it their all, I started to get behind the idea too. Maybe Cleveland -could- be good.

For their third game it was back to Richfield Coliseum for a match-up with their biggest rival and arguably the East's best team, the Detroit Pistons. Detroit dominated in the first half, outscoring the Cavaliers 43-18 in the first quarter, as Barnes and Maravich obliterated Truck Robinson and Randy Smith at every stretch. Laimbeer and Short double-teamed Calvin Natt at every corner, playing scrappy cheap ball (Natt forced out of the game with a bloody nose early in the 3rd quarter after a bad foul from Laimbeer sent him crashing head first into the hardwood) with a desire to show everyone that 6 game series had been a fluke of luck, closing out that first half 65-50. But luck was definitely in the air that night - and it came from Kevin Grevey. He had 8 points in the second quarter, hitting two threes off the bench in an attempt to rile his team back to life, but it didn't exactly turn heads. But his 3rd quarter did - he helped Cleveland outscore Detroit 39-17, dropping 30 of those points himself with 7 3s for 29 points in the quarter. He had 10 more in the 4th, including two dagger threes in the waning minutes, and miraculously, Cleveland pulled away at the end, ultimately winning the game 122-117. The team swarmed Grevey like he'd just hit 100, absolutely roaring in celebration - this was revenge for last year in the playoffs. And man was it sweet.

October 28th was just as exciting. Philadelphia, now one of the easy favorites for the finals with the combined duo of MVPs Julius Erving and Moses Malone (along side Ray Williams, one of the top 10 point-guards in the league) came poised to wreck Cleveland at the Spectrum. Instead, rookie Fat Lever played some amazing defense, holding Ray Williams to just 11 points while forcing 6 turnovers on the guard for 19 points, 5 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 4 steals. Truck Robinson had 22 points and 8 rebounds, and Cleveland won 113-106. This team was real.

By the end of November, the team was 9-13, 8th in the East but having played a fairly rough schedule thus far, with 14 of their 22 games being on the road. One of the strangest facts so far: Kevin Grevey. He was averaging 16.7 points per game, showcasing himself as an offensive force to be reckoned with, though Nate Thurmond seemed reluctant to start him. "He's got a lot of respect for Randy Smith. He doesn't want to push him out of the line-up." I'm talking to Dave Wohl, Cleveland's defensive coach who Gail Goodrich had brought on when he joined the team. "Hey man, I totally relate." That was Rick Barry, who'd also came on with Gail (Thurmond and offensive coach Rick Adelman the only two to stay with the team). "I had a going out tour, and it was great. But you've got to reckon at some point if we aren't hurting ourselves a little here."

Billy Robinzine came to the team right around the end of that month. The power forward was in his 8th year, having played for 7 teams in that time (including 24 games in Cleveland in '79 before he was traded for Fred Brown and Joey Hassett, both of whom could be described as wallflowers at best) while winning 6th man of the year in '78, his work in the 77-78 season showing he was committed to good play, regardless of his role. Goodrich gave up Kelvin Ransey in the trade (Ransey had only had 8 starts in his 130 games played throughout his three and a half years with the team since being drafted in 1980), sending him to San Diego for Billy as well as the Clipper's 1983 2nd round pick.

That December is where our trouble started. After a pretty impressive 111-103 win over San Antonio at Hemisfair Arena (Grevey leading the team with 23 off the bench) we went on to lose -9- in a row as Randy Smith went out with a nasty ankle sprain and Jeff Ruland missed a couple of games with the flu. We turned it around at the end of the month, Grevey with 28 off the bench in a 94-89 point win over New York at MSG to end our streak, before boosting it up to 33 our next game back at Richfield Coliseum, Fat Lever's 26 points and 7 assists helping us secure a narrow 120-116 win over the Mighty Bucks. Truck Robinson took control in the next game, with a season high 29 points and 8 rebounds in a 126-99 point win over Denver, and things felt good. While we lost our next game out to Philadelphia 103-129, reigning MVP Julius Erving with 43 points and 13 rebounds, we smashed back to beat 4th placed Detroit 100-91 at the Silverdome January 1st to start off the New Year. Jeff Ruland had 21 points, 3 assists, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks in arguably his best game for the season. Things were going okay... but still, we were 14-23.

So Gail Goodrich traded Glenn McDonald, Marc Iavaroni, and our 1st round 1984 pick for Denver's Bill Hanzlik, Ron Lee, and their 1985 1st round pick. Ron Lee was a veteran point guard who's great play in his time in Milwaukee illustrated clearly how he could help control the team from the second unit while also being an ideal mentor for Lever, while Bill Hanzlik, selected 9th in 1980, had been a decent enough bench player in Denver that had never quite lived up to his expectations, never getting playing time over M.L. Carr or Bobby Jones. Gail also signed on Tate Armstrong, selected 6th in 1977 by the Knicks, who hadn't played in the league since December 1980 (having torn his ACL on the 76ers). He'd averaged 21.5 points per game the previous year playing for the D-League Alburquerque Flames, and looked even better this year, boosting his field goal percentage up to 44% (from 40) with just a loss of 1.2 points per game. Now, he wagered, we could contend.

We had some great games that next stretch. Calvin Natt and Truck Robinson flourished as the offensive leaders of the time, while Fat Lever exceled in his role as distributor. Randy Smith continued to struggle with minor injuries, with Frank Johnson replacing him in the starting line up, and to everyone's surprise he handled it great after a relatively medicore rookie season the year before, averaging 11.2 points and 5.5 assists per game in his 18 starts through January. January 12th saw us beat Golden State at home, Natt dropping 21 points and 11 rebounds; that was the start of an -eight- game winning streak, including another giant win over Detroit (109-91, Grevey with 22) as well as a 120-106 win against Portland that saw Truck Robinson grab 34 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 blocks for a near triple double.

Fat Lever had been a steal. Always at the top of the list in Rookie of the Year conversations, he'd won Rookie of the Month for January and only seemed to be getting better. While Chicago's Dominique Wilkins (as well as Sleepy Floyd, actually, who'd been a giant steal at 22nd in the draft) seemed to be the pretty obvious winner, averaging 16.4 points per game alongside 6 rebounds and a steal and block, lever's 10.5 points per game and 6 assists were getting him some recognition. The team continued to shine into February, going on a 6 game streak from the 12th through the All Star break up until the 26th, losing the last game of the month to Golden State on the road at Oracle. Calvin Natt won the dunk contest, going head to head with Boston rookie Cole Baldino in the finals, while Lever managed shine in the Rookie - Sophomore game as the starting point-guard for the rookie squad, with 7 points and 8 assists in a game that nearly saw them take the lead in the 4th before Lever and Dominique Wilkins both fouled out, the sophomores ultimately winning 149-138. While no one on the team made the All-Star team, it was a much appreciated break none-the-less; they were 34-29 now, and the next immediate focus was preparing for the post-season.

It wasn't easy. While they had their fair share of good wins, they had some rough losses as well. On March 10th, the Knicks came to town for a well fought battle. Kevin Grevey's 25 points helped push Cleveland into a 6 point lead towards the end of the 4th quarter, much to the joy of fans, but Adrian Dantley quickly shut down the lead with 2 back-to-back 3s to send the game into overtime. He and Buck Williams teamed up for 16 of the Knicks 20 points in OT period, taking advantage of the absence of Truck Robinson who'd fouled out in the 4th, and the Knicks won 123-115. Nate Thurmond was disappointed, but still spoke highly of his guys after the loss. "We're fighting hard and we're crushing expectations. Sometimes you lose games. We're grown men, we can handle that."

The next night, they beat Philadelphia - on the road. Fat Lever had 19 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals, while Tate Armstrong had a season high 27 off the bench, helping the Cavaliers escape for a 103-100 win over a crushed Spectrum Arena crowd. Teams didn't just get lucky with Moses Malone and Julius Erving - that took work. They went 6-3 for the rest of March, closing out the month with a narrow 133-139 overtime loss to Detroit (Maurice Cheeks with his best game yet, dropping 38 points, 7 assists, and 10 rebounds) but in a great position looking forward at 42-36. They lost the first two games in April - one to Indiana, 83-101 as Ricky Sobers dropped 33, then the next to rival Detroit as 35 year old Pete Maravich hit a season high 36 - but went into the last game of the season having secured at least the 7th seed in the East, and with a win that night, the 6th. It was crunch time for the Cavaliers, and they were more than ready to step up to the plate.

Atlanta was good. They were 36-46, despite missing both John Drew and Reggie Theus for long stretches during the season to injury, and even worse we were playing in their turf at Omni Coliseum. John Drew had 13 points in the first half, pushing Calvin Natt into foul trouble early on and when Atlanta started the second half with a 57-51 lead, the Hawks fans started getting riled up. But, as was fitting for this year's team, help came from the bench yet again - Tate Armstrong went off, with 16 points in the 3rd quarter of his own, ultimately finishing with 24 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals as the Cavaliers escaped with a 117-97 point win. Irene Cara's "What a Feeling" echoed out into the stadium in the dwaning moments of that game, and the team absolutely embraced it. As Curtis Perry heaved up a shot with nine seconds left, the ball clanked off the rim and Bill Hanzlik caught the board, dribbling out the ball for the finish. The team had won - they were going into the post-season in 6th place. Not too shabby after all.

------ The The Plain Dealer, April 10th, 1983 ------

For Nate Thurmond, this post-season is absolutely essential for his team's success looking forward. "This is the best team we've had in years. These guys are at their absolute best right now - if we can't put up some competition now, how can we expect to moving forward?" He's not wrong; for many Cleveland fans, a history of failure is making it hard to get behind this exciting young team. Going into Monday's game, they face the New York Knicks, bolstered by the star power of Johnny Moore, Adrian Dantley, and Bob McAdoo (as well as a strong supporting cast, including starters Mike D'Antoni and Buck Williams as well as Kurt Rambis, Larry Smith, Tom Abernethy, Lonnie Shelton, and Junior Bridgeman) and are more or less expected to lose in a 4 game sweep. But can these guys show the crowd in the Big Apple what they're made of? Can they demonstrate the resolve to make the series exciting? Tune it to the game tonight, at 7:30, and find out! And stay posted for more future updates - I'm Andrew Williams, your Cleveland correspondant. Toodle loo.

-------------------------------

Game 1 exposed the exact weaknesses in the Cavs that Thurmond had been worried about. Dantley exposed Natt's weaknesses at every angle, holding him to just 6-14 shooting with no free throws drawn, while himself dropping an insane 51 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds in a personal playoff high. Towards the end of the 3rd quarter, amidst the blowout loss, Nate Thurmond got so riled up on a missed call on Lever (who, in his defense, finished the game with a fairly impressive 14 points, 6 assists, and 12 rebounds) that he was ejected from the game, resulting in Rick Adelman finishing off the game as coach. Cleveland lost - 96-122 - and it hurt. Randy Smith punched a locker, denting it and hurting a finger, which was a pretty good way of describing the general feel for the team. In Game 2, the lead continued to escape them. Natt had just 9 points, Dantley finishing with 31, as New York ran away to a 113-89 win much to the pleasure of the roaring Madison Square Garden crowd. In an interview after, he had words for Calvin Natt. "You got a 4th year player taken 5th overall - above guys like Laimbeer, like Cartwright, like Moncrief - and sometimes they don't work out. Maybe they looked good in college, had that edge, and they just got shook. Natt? Yeah, he's out there... man, he's shook."

The words stung, but the team resolved to not let them mess with them. Game 3 was different - and like many games in this story, it's hero came from the bench. Tate Armstrong was selected 6th in 1977 and had never quite lived up to the expectations of being a lottery pick - he missed the All-Rookie team, he missed being selected for the Rookie-Sophomore game both years, and before this year, his NBA high for a season in points per game had been just 6.4 coming off the bench for New Jersey. While the ACL tear hadn't helped, simply put, he'd never been particularly good. But it wasn't for a lack of talent - all of his coaches said he had talent. He just never played with drive... except for when he had a chip on his shoulder. And when he exploded for a ridiculous 33 points off the bench that night in front of an ecstatic Richfield Coliseum crowd, there were chips aplenty. It was a god damn salsa massacre. The team rallied back, after beating outscored by New York 33-24 in the first, and ultimately escaped with a 114-102 win. In Game 4 the drive continued, Jeff Ruland stepping up to the plate with 32 points and 12 rebounds, but Tate once again doing his part with 18 off the bench as Cleveland tied the series 2-2 with a 102-83 point win.

Game 5 was essential - this was the make-or-break. Lever started off playing in excellent form, dropping three consecutive lay-ups in the first quarter to team up with Randy Smith for 17 in the first quarter between the two of them - but Dantley continued to humilate Natt. Not only did he hold him to 2-11 shooting (for 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block) but he also dropped 36 himself on 12-18, along side 3 assists, 11 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal. New York outscored the Cavaliers 28-15 to pull away with a dominating 37 point lead, and by the end of the 4th quarter their bench was just humilating them. Cleveland lost 87-120 as the MSG crowd roared with enthusiasm - Game 6 would be back at home. Could they force a game 7?

Calvin Natt knew he needed to do something big here. In the days leading up to the game, he was a complete nervous wreck - Dantley had gotten into his head, and the whole team knew it. Nate Thurmond rode alone with him to the game, and while I don't know what they talked about, when Natt came into the room he was a new man. When I asked him how he was feeling, he looked me with absolute focus. "I'm ready to take this to 7."

New York started off strong. Natt was chasing Dantley around the court, holding him to just 2-5 shooting for the quarter, but Buck Williams was all over, posterizing Jeff Ruland late in the first to finish up the quarter with a 36-26 lead. Natt continued his excellent form in the second quarter, dropping 11 points including two threes, but still New York managed to push away as Johnny Moore danced around the court making play after play with his excellent pass-making abilities. In the third quarter, however, Natt got some relief - Kevin Grevey hit 4 pointers in just 7 minutes played, and as Natt continued to score, Cleveland snuck into their first lead of the game with a minute thirty three left in the 3rd, leading 97-95. The lead backed back and forth through-out the 4th as Dantley finally found his stroke, but when Natt made a beautiful play stealing the inbound pass from Moore (just his second turnover of the night) and slammed it home with just under thirty seconds left, Cleveland finally took a breath of relief. They were up 118-116 - this game was set. Natt had finished with 31 points, 4 steals, 3 blocks, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists, committing just one foul while shooting 15-24. He looked up towards the crowd and thrust his fist in the air with an enormous roar.

And then Mike D'Antoni caught a beautiful pass from Johnny Moore in the corner and slammed home a three right on the buzzer. And just like that, Cleveland had lost. Dantley took some time during the celebration to walk over and talk to Natt, seemingly commending his performance, and the rest of the team sulked their way back into the locker room. The season was over.

I finished up my last day in Cleveland grabbing a drink with Nate Thurmond. Had the loss been disappointing? Definitely. But did it mean the season had been a failure? "Not at all. These guys need... no, -crave- an identity. And it's starting to come together. Maybe we're not the best in the league today, and maybe we won't be anytime soon - but watch out. Cleveland is coming for ya." I'm Connie Hawkins, and this is "Inside a Team - the Cleveland edition."
rawr123456787654
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Re: Everybody roots for David, nobody pulls for Goliath.

Postby rawr123456787654 » Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:34 pm

----- 1983-84 Golden State Warriors ------

Wes Unseld was among the notable retirees. The veteran center - most notable perhaps for winning MVP and Rookie of the Year the same year, 1969 - had spent most of his career in Washington (though he spent the last 5 years of his career in Philadelphia, helping them nearly win a championship before retiring) and was promptly hired as the Bullets general manager, replacing Bob Ferry who'd failed to build an impressive team the last few years out. I was there with my fiancee - Janet Carter, the daughter of Dallas owner Don Carter, a good friend of my dads - when I first met Sam Schulman, owner of the Supersonics. "You've got a good head on you, Mieuli. How long you planning on sticking around the Bay Area?" I shrugged and smiled. "For as long as my dad wants me, I guess." Sam grinned, apparently liking the sound of that, as he slid a card out of his wallet, thrusting it over towards me with the look of someone searching to make a deal. "You call me and let me know if things change. I'm sure we could find a spot for you somewhere around here - we'd love to have you, Peter." Heh. Not a chance. It was nice to know people were noticing what I'd been doing, though.

The NBA draft class was a good one.
- Kansas City started off by sending their 4th pick, Mike Gminski, and their 1985 1st round pick to Detroit for the 1st pick, John Mengelt, Charlie Scott, and Detroit's 1985 1st round pick. They used this to select Ralph Sampson first overall. Rodney McCray went 2nd to Washington, Byron Scott went 3rd to New Jersey, Jeff Malone 4th to Detroit, Steve Stipanovich 5th to Dallas, Thurl Bailey 6th to Philadelphia, Sidney Green 7th to San Diego, Derek Harper 8th to Atlanta, Ennis Whatley 9th to New Jersey, and Clyde Drexler 10th to Houston (where he'd been a sensation in college as well).
- Doc Rivers went to Indiana at 11, Craig Ehlo to Cleveland at 12, Russell Cross to Milwaukee at 13, Howard Carter to New Jersey at 14, Darrell Walker to Detroit at 15, Antoine Carr to Phoenix at 16, Dale Ellis to Dallas at 17 - which irked my father to no end, as he'd picked out Ellis as the "sleeper" of this draft, someone he'd wanted at all costs - which left me to take Mitchell Wiggins, a shooting guard who'd gone to Florida State, with the 18th pick. Randy Wittman went to Washington at 19, Sedale Threatt to Denver at 20, Roy Hinson to Philadelphia at 21, Mark West to Boston at 22, and John Paxson to Los Angeles at 23.
Trades during the draft not mentioned included:
- Houston sending their 1985 second round pick and Casper Clay to Milwaukee for Steve Johnson and the *** 2nd round pick (which they used to select
- Houston also sent Ronnie Lester to Chicago for Mike O'Koren.

There were a few big early summer moves. Rex Hughes left San Antonio after 5 excellent years as head coach, unable at securing a contract extension with Spurs owner Red McCombs that he felt was appropriate for what he'd done (having gone 285-133 in his time with the team). He was brought on as the head coach in Chicago, while meanwhile Gene Shue was brought into Dallas to fix what they considered an absolute mess of a team. Portland split ways with Jack Ramsay as well, calling him a great coach and a great asset to the team, but opting to go with the young Mike Fratello in the hopes of reinventing themselves as serious competitors once again. Del Harris, who'd been an assistant coach under Tom Nissalke in Houston, Herb Brown in New Jersey, and finally Red Holzman in New York, was brought in to take over for the Spurs, while Tex Winter was brought into Utah to try and revitalize a squad that had failed to mesh under Nissalke (or Kloppenburg the year before that - they really should have kept Elgin Baylor).

I let Bob Love take over the summer league team again, and he did his best to put together a decent squad. Albert King, Claude Gregory, Danny Schayes, Darwin Cook, Pace Mannion (selected in the second round), and Mike Sanders (also taken in the second round) joined the roster, and we did decent enough, going 6-1 to make it into the summer league tournament. We matched up with Ralph Sampson and Kansas City in the first round, who'd beaten us earlier in the season, but managed to escape with a win as Danny Schayes put the team on his back with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks (Sampson finishing with 19 points and 9 rebounds). In the next round we met up with Washington, who'd beaten out our Summer League rival Atlanta in the first round - while the game was close, Rodney McCray pulled away at the end, helping his team escape with a narrow 104-102 win as he dropped 25. Flip Saunders, the Washington offensive coordinator who was leading the team, was showing quickly that he was a sharp mind, ready for the coaching world at just 28. His team went on to beat Knicks in the finals, seizing the summer league tournament victory, while Ralph Sampson was named Summer League MVP.

Free agency was frustrating. I had Sidney god damn Moncrief on the phone ready to commit if we could match the price, and his 16 million a year asking price was just in our budget. But my dad wasn't willing to budge - luxury tax was scary, and he knew we'd need to throw a few more contracts around to flesh out the team. Instead, Moncrief went to New York and we lost our first solid shot at replacing Wilkes since he left. I was livid. I almost threatened to quit. But what could I do? Instead we went into the season with our core intact, hoping that maybe defense could bring us home another championship.

The season was ready to go.

- Head Coach: Al Attles
- 670-426 record [47-35 previous season], 47, 12 playoffs (3 conf finals, 2 championship), 25 years w team (11 as player, 14 as coach)
- Attles has done a lot with a little. The team continues to ride near the top of the conference, they continue to perservere against dominating opponents, and they've stayed loyal to their players. But with finances tight and stress abound, it's going to be important to succeed in the coming season in order to keep things steady - because in an era where basketball interest is flying through the roof, the Warriors continue to be reliable, but not exactly eye grabbing. Soon enough, that will change - or so Attles hopes.

- Starting PG: Gus Williams - #1
- 6-2, 175 lbs, 30, 9th year in the NBA (9th w. team), 20th pick in the 1975 draft, USC.
- Career 13.2 ppg, 7.0 apg, 3.4 rpg (2.7 d, 0.6 o), 1.6 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.7 topg, 32.1 mpg.
- Last season 15.1 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.6 rpg (3.6 d, 1.0 o), 1.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 2.0 topg, 35.9 mpg.
- 34 point game high, 20 assists, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 8 steals, 126 double-doubles, 6 triple-doubles, 27 player of the games.
- 1976 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team, 1977 Sophomore Game Reserve, 1980 NBA All-League Second Team, 1980 NBA All-League 2nd Defense, 1981 All-Star Game, 1983 All-Star Game, 1983 NBA All-League 3rd team, 1983 3-point contest champ, 1 title won.
- Gus Williams has shown he can play with a chip on his shoulder. It's him against the league now, and he's more than ready to take them on. His loyalty to the Warriors has gone rewarded, and he's riding out the last year of a very lucrative contract already - even though age is a real factor, with his playset, he should be solid for the next few years to come. Him and Parish need to continue carrying this team for as long as they can - and maybe we get lucky.

- Starting SG: Otis Birdsong - #10
- 6-3, 190 lbs, 29, 7th year in the NBA (7th with team), 18th pick in the 1977 draft, Houston.
- Career 10.5 ppg, 2.0 apg, 3.8 rpg (2.5 d, 1.4 o), 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 topg, 23.7 mpg.
- Last season 18.4 ppg, 2.8 apg, 6.0 rpg (3.9 d, 2.0 o), 1.4 spg, 0.9 bpg, 1.8 topg, 34.3 mpg.
- Career high 37 points, 9 assists, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 5 steals, 12 double-double, 9 player of the game.
- 1983 NBA All-Defense 2nd team.
- Birdsong showed he's capable of taking over games and leading comebacks, and he's showed he can mesh as a starter with this team. A big fan favorite, his smart shooting and crafty playmaking make him a delight to watch. As he continues to grow over the next season, expect big leaps as he learns how to handle the spotlight. He's not Wilkes, but he's killing it anyways.

- Starting SF: Terry Tyler - #41
- 6-7, 215 lbs, 28, 6th yr in the NBA (1 and a half w team), 18th pick in the 1978 NBA draft, Detroit Mercy.
- Career 6.8 ppg, 1.2 apg, 4.9 rpg (3.9 d, 1.0 o), 1.2 spg, 2.4 bpg, 1.0 topg, 27.4 mpg.
- Last season 10.0 ppg, 2.5 apg, 6.6 rpg (5.4 d, 1.2 o), 1.6 spg, 3.2 bpg, 1.7 topg, 31.4 mpg.
- Career high 29 points, 7 assists, 14 rebounds, 8 blocks, 9 steals, 15 double doubles, 9 p.o.t.gs.
- 1980 All-Defense 2nd team, 1981 All-Defense 1st team, 1983 All-Defense 1st team.
- Tyler has solidified himself as one of the most dominating defensive forwards of today's NBA. While his offensive game is sometimes lackluster, he's never the less capable of contributing when needed, and his ability to contest shots and dominate at nearly every defensive aspect of the game makes him a great commodity. Awesome replacement for what he does.

- Starting PF: Danny Schayes - #34
- 6-11, 235 lbs, 24, 2nd year (2nd w. team), 14th pick in the 1981 draft, Syracuse.
- Career average 9.3 ppg, 1.3 apg, 6.6 rpg (4.8 d, 1.8 o), 0.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.1 topg, 22.2 mpg.
- Last season 12.0 ppg, 1.5 apg, 8.2 rpg (5.9 d, 2.3 o), 0.4 spg, 1.3 bpg, 1.4 topg, 26.0 mpg.
- Career high 28 points, 6 assists, 18 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals, 36 d-ds, 2 p.o.t.g.
- 1982 Rookie-Sophomore game reserve player (Rookie team), 1983 Rookie-Sophomore game starter (Sophomore).
- Schayes continues to show great potential. His greatest strength, which is surprising for a center, is shooting. With a very soft touch and a very smooth gamestyle in the post, he positions himself well for rebounds, excelling off the offensive glass, and is very good at setting up fast break plays. He'll surprise you with the things he can do both in the post as well as the open floor, and was one of the most athletic players in all of college basketball. Watch out for him to become a fundamental part of this team as he grows into the starting line up.

- Starting C: Robert Parish - #00
- 7-0, 230 lbs, 30, 8th year (8th w. team), 8th pick in the 1976 draft, Centenary.
- Career average 16.7 ppg, 1.0 apg, 9.3 rpg (7.0 d, 2.3 o), 1.0 spg, 2.0 bpg, 1.4 topg, 29.7 mpg.
- Last season 24.9 ppg, 1.2 apg, 11.7 rpg (8.7 d, 3.0 o), 1.1 spg, 2.6 bpg, 2.3 topg, 32.7 mpg.
- Career high 44 points, 5 assists, 26 rebounds, 10 blocks, 5 steals, 253 double-doubles, 1 triple double, 95 p.o.t.g.
- 1981-1983 All-Star.
- Like Gus, the spotlight now shines towards Parish. With Wilkes gone, it's up to him to lead by example, and thankfully he's coming off his most dominating season yet. If he can continue to play at an All Star level, expect him to flourish into one of the top centers in the league in the months to come. He's always been a beast, but can that athleticism and physicality translate into smart play making on the hardwood? We'll have to wait and see.

- 6th Man: Curtis Rowe (PF/C) - #41
- 6-7, 225 lbs, 34, 13th year in the NBA (3rd and a half w team), 11th pick in the 1971 NBA draft, UCLA.
- Career 9.5 ppg, 1.7 apg, 7.0 rpg (5.1 d, 1.9 o), 0.8 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.2 topg, 38.9 mpg.
- Last season 4.3 ppg, 1.2 apg, 5.5 rpg (3.6 d, 1.9 o), 0.4 spg, 0.8 bpg, 0.5 topg, 21.2 mpg.
- Career high 38 points, 11 assists, 20 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 steals, 71 double doubles, 22 p.o.t.gs.
- 1976 NBA All-Star.
- Back to the bench for Rowe. As he nears the end of his career, I know a shot at a ring is important to him, but I'm glad he's stuck it out with us. He's still a reliable force off the bench, age or not, and he'll be a great role model for a lot of the younger guys on this squad.

- Other notable bench players- Darwin Cook (PG), Albert King (SF), Ron Boone (SG), Dennis Awtrey (C), Cornelius Cash (PF), Marcus Collins (PG), Albert King (SF), Claude Gregory (PF) + Mike Sanders (SF) D-League.
-------------------------

Our first few games of the season went smoothly enough. Otis Birdsong broke out to a great start in Game 1, dropping 33 points alongside 3 assists and 10 rebounds in a 107-94 win over Dallas for the home fans, and I felt pretty good about our chances going forward. While we lost the next game out to San Diego on the road, we snapped back into form after that, Parish dropping 30 points and 19 rebounds in a 103-88 win over San Antonio along side victories over Phoenix, Denver, and our rival Utah in a thrilling 100-98 win in overtime that saw Birdsong match his career high 37 points. Going into our first season game against the Lakers, Attles felt good about our odds. "Pat Riley's a great coach and those are a great group of guys. But these guys got heart, and when they wanna do something they do it. And we wanna win this match."

The Lakers were missing Kareem, who was out with a sore arm, and were still adjusting to Campy Russell at power forward, who had originally been brought in as a small forward, so we liked our odds. The Kermit Washington trade had seen shudders through the basketball world - Magic Johnson at one point requesting a trade, stating "I don't want to play here anymore" - but they had quickly been shut down as the team regained form and grace. Brooks (traded from Dallas along side two second round picks) proved to be a great force off the bench, quickly befriending Magic, and that was that. But still, we felt we could win this game.

Unfortunately, things started off a bit lackluster. We were outscored 33-19 in the first quarter, as World B. Free hit shot after shot, but when rookie Mitchell Wiggins and Marcus Collins hit their form in the second quarter, we excelled, finishing up the half with a 52-46 lead. The Lakers rallied back in the third, but Terry Tyler played some excellent defense on Wilkes to hold him to just 4-18 shooting for the night (along side 13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 7 blocks) and Wiggins 17 off the bench helped us force an overtime that we managed to win, 112-108, much to the pleasure of the roaring Oracle Arena crowd.

Our form kept up for the rest of November. We finished up the month 15-7, going on a particularly dominating stretch the first half of December to end up 21-9 by the 16th, including another 105-89 win over the Lakers (Parish with 31 points, 16 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals). The team looked good, despite missing out on Moncrief (who was struggling to fit into the New York scheme, the Knicks 5th in the East at 17-13) we had begun to flourish with Danny Schayes in the starting line-up, and I felt good about our team going forward. Dolph Schayes, Danny's father and a NBA Hall of Famer who'd served as first Buffalo then San Diego's GM from 1976 til 1982, was happy to shower the team with praise, but he gave me some advice. "The Lakers and the Celtics are both taking the league by force with offense right now. Make a move - go for Walton when he's cheap. You push enough defense on those guys and you can squeeze out a win, just watch." Walton had just torn his achilles again, and I knew what he said had some truth to it - but still, there was no reason to mess anything up, not right now. For now, we trusted the team.

The next few weeks were pretty sweet. We lost a thrilling overtime game to Lakers on Christmas day, Magic Johnson's 28 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks helping the Lakers tear away to a 113-101 win in overtime, but our record still stayed fairly decent. We won five straight on the road in the middle of the month, including a dominating 31 point 21 rebound 6 block game of pure domination from Parish in a giant win 129-104 win over San Antonio at HemisFair Arena. My wedding happened around the same time, Janet and I having been together for nearly two years, on January 18th; Henry Bibby, who'd spent the past four seasons as the starting point guard in Kansas but had originally been just a tough talking kid from North Carolina who I'd roomed with freshman year, served as my best man, and the grooms men included Curtis Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Andy Hill, and Al Attles. During the reception afterwards Don Carter, my new father in law, slammed a hand on my shoulder with a grin as big as I could see. "We're family now, Peter. Don't forget that." The rest of the night was a blur - drinking, smoking, flashes of Bill Walton lifting me over his shoulder as he roared for the DJ to put on some track by the Grateful Dead instead of this Van Halen "Jump" nonsense - exactly how I could've hoped.

It was nice. It was great. And then January 27th, old reality came back knocking at my door. We were down 6 points a couple of minutes into the second quarter and Birdsong had the ball, winding into the lane. He pumped to the left of George Gervin, weaving inbetween him and Walker, before catching himself on Gervin's foot sending him stumbling into and over Larry Kenon as he tried to jump up to force a lay-up, ultimately crashing down into the hardwood on his left arm. He tried to stand up, only to sit back down with a grimace - later results would show a broken wrist. He'd be out for the next two months, easy.

In came Mitchell Wiggins. While the rookie, picked 18th overall, had flashes of great play coming off the bench, he'd yet to prove himself, and those few games Attles gave him the start he didn't exactly turn any heads, scoring 8 points along side 2 rebounds in 36 minutes played in his best game out of the five. We put Albert King into the starting line-up after that, his couple of years of experience both in the D-League his rookie season as well as coming off the bench last season giving him a slight edge over Wiggins (dropping 18 in his first game starting, a 93-103 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden) but not by much. By the All-Star break we were 32-26, still surprisingly 3rd in the West but not too far ahead of the 32-27 Utah Jazz (who's acquisition of Dennis Johnson had proved franchise saving for them), the 29-28 Trailblazers, or the 29-29 Seattle Supersonics. It wasn't going to be easy coming out of the break.

The weekend's festivities were held at McNichols Sports Arena, and it was nice to get out of the groove for a bit, however shortly. None of our guys made the dunk or 3-point contest, though it was cool to see Reggie King finally snag a win over Sly Williams in the dunk contest. My dad wouldn't stop raving about Dale Ellis during the 3-point contest and when he dropped 15 points in 23 minutes played during the Rookie-Sophomore game, he lit up a cigar and looked at me with a grim face. "We missed out big. That kid's something else." I didn't exactly see where he was coming from - yes he was good, but there were plenty of other rookies that looked good. Rodney McCray played the same position and I'd of taken him any day - though, to be fair, he'd gone second, not 17th. What was notable was that Al Attles finally got to coach one of the teams as they implemented a no-two-years-in-a-row policy for coaches; while the rookie team lost, I could tell it brought him a ton of joy. It was also the first time he'd really coached a team other then the Warriors. Parish should've been an All-Star, as should Gus, but both were snubbed - Kareem, Roundfield, Sikma, Kenon, and Rollins making up the big men beating out Robert while John Lucas, Dennis Johnson, and Magic Johnson made up the Western point guards. Julius Erving came in with 32 off the bench for MVP honors, helping the East coast to an easy 153-144 win as Billy Cunningham roared with celebration, hugging his star forward in joy. Man. Should've been Al and Robert.

The Dunk and 3-point contests boasted:

- Dunk: Reggie King (SF, ATL, Champ), Sly Williams (SF, UTA, Finalist), Gene Banks (SF, PHI), Calvin Natt (SF, CLE).

- 3-Point: Butch Lee (PG, DAL, Champ), Jim McElroy (PG, UTA, Finalist), Brian Taylor (PG, SEA, Finalist), David Thompson (SG, DEN), Randy Smith (SG, CLE), Quinn Buckner (SG, SA), Dale Ellis (SF, DAL), Mike D'Antoni (SG, NY).

The Rookie/Sophomore game teams contained:

- Rookies (125): Doc Rivers (IND, S. PG), Clyde Drexler (HOU, S. SG), Rodney McCray (WAS, S. SF), Sidney Green (SD, S. PF), Ralph Sampson (KAN, S. C), Thurl Bailey (PHI, PF), Antoine Carr (PHO, PF), Dale Ellis (DAL, SF), Byron Scott (NJN, SG), Steve Stipanovich (DAL, C), Darrell Walker (PG, DET), Joe Harrington (PF, LAL). Head Coach: Al Attles (GSW).

- Sophomores (143): Sleepy Floyd (CHI, S. PG), Ricky Pierce (PHI, S. SG), Dominique Wilkins (CHI, S. SF), LaSalle Thompson Thompson (KAN, S. PF), Peter Gudmundsson (IND, S. C), James Worthy (PHO, SF, MVP), Lester Conner (IND, PG), Terry Cummings (WAS, PF), Quintin Dailey (DAL, SG), John Bagley (PHO, PG), Mark Eaton (MIL, C), Derek Smith (SG, POR). Head Coach: Chuck Daly.

- Notable statlines included Clyde Drexler with 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal, and 21 points on 7-17 shooting, Doc Rivers with 8 assists, 1 rebound, and 17 points on 7-12 shooting, Sidney Green with 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 16 points on 8-12 shooting, Dale Ellis with 3 rebounds and 15 points on 5-12 shooting off the bench, Dominique Wilkins with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 18 points on 6-16 shooting, LaSalle Thompson with 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 12 points on 3-6 shooting, Sleepy Floyd with 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal, and 24 points on 6-9 shooting, John Bagley with 9 assists, 2 steals, and 12 points on 4-8 shooting off the bench, and James Worthy with 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 31 points on 8-13 shooting off the bench for MVP honors.

The All-Star composite consisted of:

- Western All Stars (144): Magic Johnson (LAL, S. PG), Rolando Blackman (SEA, S. SG), Bernard King (HOU, S. SF), Larry Kenon (SA, S. PF), Tree Rollins (DEN, S. C), David Thompson (DEN, SG), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (LAL, C), John Lucas (PHO, PG), Dennis Johnson (UTA, PG), Dan Roundfield (SD, PF), Cedric Maxwell (SEA, SF), Jack Sikma (PHO, C). Head Coach: Johnny Kerr (PHO).

- Eastern All Stars (153): Sleepy Floyd (CHI, S. PG), Phil Smith (MIL, S. SG), Larry Bird (BOS, S. SF), Marvin Barnes (DET, S. PF), Moses Malone (PHI, S. C), Julius Erving (PHI, SF, MVP), Adrian Dantley (NY, SF), Rick Mahorn (MIL, PF), Bill Laimbeer (DET, C), Dominique Wilkins (CHI, SF), Sidney Moncrief (NY, SG), Maurice Cheeks (DET, PG). Head Coach: Billy Cunningham (PHI).

- Notable stat lines included Rolando Blackman with 22 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals on 7-10 shooting, David Thompson with 2 rebounds and 25 points off the bench on 9-13 shooting, John Lucas with 12 assists and 13 points on 5-7 shooting off the bench, Julius Erving with 32 points on 10-19 shooting off the bench for MVP honors, Sidney Moncrief with 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 17 points on 6-7 shooting off the bench, and Adrian Dantley with 7 rebounds and 26 points on 6-12 shooting (and 13-14 from the FT line).

Trades for the season included:
- The Lakers sending Kermit Washington to Dallas for Michael Brooks, their 1986 second round pick, and their 1984 second round pick over the summer.
- The Knicks sending Lonnie Shelton and their 1986 first round pick to Utah for Jerome Whitehead and Utah's 1986 1st round pick over the summer.
- Utah sending Kiki Vandeweghe to San Diego for Sly Williams and San Diego's 1986 1st round pick shortly before the season started.
- Portland sent Walter Davis to Dallas for Billy Ray Bates, Al Wood, and the Maverick's 1986 1st round pick in mid-December in a surprising move.
- Boston sent Larry Steele, their 1986 1st round pick, and two 1984 2nd round picks alongside their own 1985 second round pick to Atlanta for Eddie Jordan right before the new year in a fairly blockbuster trade.
- The Clippers sent their 1984 2nd round pick, their 1986 2nd round pick, and two 1985 second round picks along side Al Skinner to the Lakers for Wilbur Holland and Los Angeles's 1986 1st round pick.

Elsewhere in the league, panic ran amuck as teams tried to gamble in order to match the offensive might of teams like Los Angeles and Boston. Portland had begun to bottom out, quickly spiralling out of the playoff conversation as injuries spoiled their shot at contention, while Dallas found itself still stuck towards the bottom of the league despite big moves to bring in veteran talent (in the form of Kermit Washington and Walter Davis). Kansas City had fired Cotton Fitzsimmons, ultimately promoting assistant and interim coach Satch Sanders to the head role, while meanwhile Chicago was finally flourishing as head coach Rex Hughes brought them towards their best season 73-74 through great play from Sleepy Floyd, John Long, Dominique Wilkins, Mickey Johnson, Artis Gilmore, and Sidney Wicks. We weren't in the title contender conversation, but looking around, I was okay with where we were at.

By mid-March we were 38-31, closing in on the 41-30 Seattle Supersonics for 3rd place in the West. We managed 5 major wins in a row over Portland, Houston, Denver, Utah, and then most notably the Lakers at home (Tyler with 22 points, 3 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals while holding Wilkes to 5-18 shooting in the 106-96 win) in order to help boost us up. We finally lost to the Lakers - this time losing an embarassing 67-101 at the Forum as Magic posted 23 points, 8 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and 16 rebounds - but the game after that Birdsong finally returned. We went 3-4 in that final hump of the season, ultimately finishing up 46-36; good, but still our worst record since '73-74. Still, somehow it got us into the playoffs in 3rd, and we were in no position to complain.

We were up against Houston in the first round. Terry Tyler spent nearly two weeks preparing for his match-up against King, watching gameplay footage and practicing drills against Curtis Rowe (who was also 6-7, sporting a similar body type) to get his shot blocking up. And it came in handy - in Game 1, he had 25 points, 2 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 6 blocks, holding Bernard King to 14-30 shooting (for a still impressive 32 points) while Mitchell Wiggin's 16 off the bench helped us secure a 107-94 game 1 win at home. We won the next one too, Tyler's defense shining as he posted a 17 point, 3 assist, 5 steal, 9 rebound, 9 block stat line, this time holding King to just 8-25 from the line as the Warriors won again at home 109-97, Gus William's 31 points and 8 assists taking them all the way. Al Attles praised Tyler's efforts, calling him the best defensive forward in the league. "Bernard King is an amazing scorer - but he's not beating us with Tyler on the court."

On April 18th, the Rockets proved us wrong. Bernard King dropped 41 points, teaming up with Clyde Drexler (who had 34) to outscore the Warriors 106-93 at home as Houston kept the series alive. Parish snapped right back into form in Game 4, dropping 29 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 4 blocks, as we won 92-83. Game 5 was a must win for Houston - I don't think Bill Fitch had anticipated this much of a one-sided battle from us, and pushed into the corner now he was gonna have to pull something magical out to stay alive. Fortunately for us, Oracle Arena was magic free April 21st - we won 91-80, finishing off the Rockets in 5 games much to the applause of our Oracle Arena fans.

In the second round, we were up against the 7th seed San Antonio Spurs. Foots Walker, George Gervin, Mike Mitchell, Larry Kenon, and Dave Corzine had struggled to mesh early on in the season under new head coach Del Harris (Rex Hughes having left for Chicago) but towards the All Star break they'd snapped into form, ultimately finishing with a 41-41 record and a good enough team to beat the second seed Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the first round. we were confident going into Game 1, having gone 4-1 against them in the regular season, but George Gervin had come to ball. He had 16 points in the 3rd quarter, finishing with 29 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds as the Spurs won 105-95 to shut the Oracle Arena fans up.

I was nervous. The Spurs were playing some incredible defense and while Parish could run the floor with Corzine, our guards were being dominated by Walker and Gervin, and we needed to switch up the pace. Gus Williams did just that in Game 2 - the ball was a constant flurry, as he drew out defenders and relied on Birdsong and Parish to smash into the post time and time again, the Warriors ultimately winning 116-100, Parish with 35, Birdsong with 28. The team felt good going into Game 3 at Hemisfair Arena, but soon enough Gervin snapped back into his incredible post-season form; he finished the dominant game with 34 points, 3 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals, the Spurs outplaying us 101-77. When he dropped 31 in Game 4 to take the Spurs to an even more embarassing 126-83 loss, things seemed grim for us - almost no one had come back from a 3-1 lead to win a series. Critics pegged us as goners.

But we weren't going down without a fight. Gus Williams and Parish combined for 78 points in Game 5, where we managed an incredible 49-30 4th point quarter to tie the game up 119-119; but Gervin's luck kept up. After an ugly 7-20 shooting night for him, he hit his 3rd 3 of the game right on the buzzer from only a few feet past the half court line as the buzzer went off and the Oracle Arena crowd went silent. There would be no overtime tonight - we were done.

San Antonio went on to lose to Los Angeles in the conference finals, and soon enough a rematch of '82 emerged as the Lakers beat the Spurs 4-1 to face off against Boston in the finals. The Celtics had beaten Cleveland, New York, and Atlanta to make it this far again, and with the reigning MVP, Larry Bird, playing in incredible form, it looked to be another legendary match-up. I invited my dad to watch the first game of the series with the team as per tradition, but he quickly shot me down - he was tempermental as of late. Team revenue was down, and he'd been having financial troubles in general, and it was starting to get to him. Still, he missed out, as the finals went down as one of the greatest of the decade. Isiah Thomas-Fly Williams-Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Dave Cowens and guys like Jo Jo White, Danny Ainge, Michael Cooper, Clifford Ray, Pat Cummings, and Darnell Hillman came off the bench for Boston, while Magic Johnson-World B. Free-Jamaal Wilkes-Campy Russell-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and guys like Louis Orr, Al Skinner, Curtis Perry, Mike Dunleavy, Cliff Pondexter, and John Paxson came off the bench for Los Angeles.

Game 1 went to the Celtics - Larry Bird finished with 39 points and 12 rebounds, Wilkes leaving the game midway through the 3rd with 24 points and 6 fouls which allowed Bird to just ran havoc, Boston winning 117-105. In Game 2, Pat Riley switched things up, bringing Cliff Pondexter into the line-up in an attempt to get some more coverage on Bird. And it worked - Kareem was a defensive machine, with 19 points, 2 steals, 6 assists, 8 blocks, and 16 rebounds, which, alongside World B. Free's 33, helped the Lakers win 106-90. Boston fired right back in Game 3 at the Garden, Larry Bird blowing up for 45 points, 7 assists, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 5 steals, Boston running away 107-90, and people started to wonder if Los Angeles was going to fall short yet again. When asked about Bird and the Celtics, Magic Johnson found himself stuttering to come up with an answer. "Well... they're good. They might be the best team in the league right now - no, they definitely are, aside from us that is. And, well, y'know... we're gonna come out, and we're gonna show them that's the case. We were ready to last year, and, y'know, they lost to Philadelphia... so... we're just gonna have to do it now."

On May 31st, Magic ate his words. Isiah Thomas matched him at every end of the court, holding him to just 10 points (alongside 10 assists) while putting up 27 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, and 1 steal. Bird had 25, Fly Williams 16, and Danny Ainge had 15 as the Celtics won 112-89, seizing a dominating 3-1 series lead. Magic retaliated in Game 5 with 29 points, 6 assists, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 steals (though Thomas matched him with 29 of his own) for a 107-93 win at the Forum to keep the Lakers dreams alive, but in Game 6 the Garden was roaring. Magic Johnson and Kareem wanted to force a Game 7 - and Larry Bird wanted his second ring. One of the fiercest games of basketball ever played was about to begin.

The Lakers started off strong. World B. Free and Wilkes teamed up for 33 points in the first half, Free with an impressive 20 to start, as the Lakers stole a 39-32 point lead to end the first quarter. Jo Jo White came in at the beginning of the second for Danny Ainge (who'd notched 3 fouls in the first quarter alone) and him and Thomas tore it up, White dishing out 6 assists along side 7 assists while Thomas had 21 points and 5 assists in the quarter for himself, the Celtics outscoring the Lakers 39-36 to bring the Lakers lead down to 75-71 going into the half. I looked at Curtis Rowe - seated next to me - who, having played for Boston for two years was rooting for them to win, and he was shaking his head with a big grin. "Whatchu lookin' at me crazy for? Larry Bird's just warming up." His words rang true - Bird had 18 in the quarter, going 8-8 from the free throw line much to the pleasure of the roaring Boston fans, and Boston managed to tie it up 102-102 going into the 4th. The Lakers kept it together until fairly late in the 4th, World B. Free finishing with an impressive 44 points, but Larry Bird played some amazing defense on Magic, holding him to just 7 points the entire game, and with his 40 points, 5 steals, 4 assists, and 11 rebounds (along side Isiah Thomas's 43 points and 9 assists) the Celtics ultimately won 137-132, seizing their second championship over the Lakers in 3 years. The crowd went wild - the last time the Celtics had won, it had been at the Forum. This time, Boston got to embrace the win - this time, it was clear who the victors were.

Larry Bird won his second consecutive MVP as well as his second finals MVP (though Isiah Thomas felt it should've been his, something that would go on to cause major conflict within the team) while Philadelphia's Moses Malone won his first Defensive Player of the Year (to compliment his two MVPs). Clyde Drexler won Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player went to Utah's Kelly Tripucka, 6th Man of the Year went to Portland's Johnny Davis, Coach of the Year to the Lakers Pat Riley for the second year in a row, and Atlanta's Bob Pettit won Executive of the Year for bringing his team back into the contender conversation.

- The All-NBA 1st team consisted of Magic Johnson (LAL), George Gervin (SA), Larry Bird (BOS), Kevin McHale (BOS), and Moses Malone (PHI).
- The All-NBA 2nd team consisted of John Lucas (PHO), John Long (CHI), Dominique Wilkins (CHI), Larry Kenon (SA), and Robert Parish (GSW).
- The All-NBA 3rd team consisted of Sleepy Floyd (CHI), Phil Smith (MIL), Adrian Dantley (NYK), Marvin Barnes (DET), and Bill Laimbeer (DET).
- The All-Defense 1st team consisted of Magic Johnson (LAL), Clyde Drexler (HOU), Terry Tyler (GSW), Truck Robinson (CLE), and Moses Malone (PHI).
- The All-Defense 2nd team consisted of George Karl (SD), World B. Free (LAL), Larry Bird (BOS), Larry Nance (ATL), and Tree Rollins (DEN).
- The All-Rookie 1st team consisted of Doc Rivers (IND), Clyde Drexler (HOU), Rodney McCray (WAS), Sidney Green (SD), and Ralph Sampson (KAN).
- The All-Rookie 2nd team consisted of Darrell Walker (DET), Byron Scott (NJN), Dale Ellis (DAL), Thurl Bailey (PHI), and Steve Stipanovich (DAL).

Statistical leaders were as followed:
PPG
- Larry Bird (BOS, 31.1)
- George Gervin 2nd (SA, 28.3), Julius Erving 3rd (PHI, 28.0), Adrian Dantley 4th (NY, 27.3), Bernard King 5th (HOU, 25.7), Phil Smith 6th (MIL, 25.6), Billy Knight 7th (IND, 25.3), Mark Aguirre 8th (DAL, 24.5), John Drew 9th (ATL, 24.4), Dominique Wilkins 10th (CHI, 24.3), Rolando Blackman 11th (SEA, 24.2), Ricky Sobers 12th (IND, 23.7), Moses Malone 13th (PHI, 23.5), Dennis Johnson 14th (UTA, 22.9), Alex English 15th (PHO, 21.9), Robert Parish 16th (GSW, 21.8), David Thompson 17th (DEN, 21.5), John Long 18th (CHI, 21.2), Maurice Lucas 19th (POR, 21.1), Marvin Barnes 20th (DET, 20.9).

APG
- John Lucas (PHO, 9.5)
- Phil Ford 2nd (DEN, 8.8), George Karl 3rd (SD, 8.7), Sleepy Floyd 4th (CHI, 7.6), Norm Nixon 5th (WAS, 7.3), Gus Williams 6th (GSW, 6.9), Magic Johnson 7th (LAL, 6.7), Foots Walker 8th (SA, 6.6), Lionel Hollins 9th (POR, 6.5), Johnny Moore 10th (NY, 6.4), Fat Lever 11th (CLE, 6.3), Ray Williams 12th (PHI, 6.2), Larry Drew/Brad Davis 13th (MIL/KAN, 6.1), Michael Ray Richardson 14th (HOU, 6.0), Slick Watts 15th (SEA, 5.9).

RPG
- Robert Parish (GSW, 13.2)
- Moses Malone 2nd (PHI, 12.6), Bill Walton 3rd (POR, 11.0), Kevin McHale 4th (BOS, 10.8), Jack Sikma 5th (PHO, 10.7), Bill Laimbeer 6th (DET, 10.6), Rick Mahorn 7th (MIL, 10.5), Larry Bird 8th (BOS, 10.4), Bill Cartwright 9th (WAS, 10.3), Bob McAdoo 10th (NY, 10.1), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Dan Roundfield 11th (LAL/SD, 10.0), Marvin Barnes 12th (DET, 9.6), Tree Rollins 13th (DEN, 9.5), Dominique Wilkins/Buck Williams 14th (CHI/NY, 9.4), Mitch Kupchak/Truck Robinson 15th (WAS/CLE, 9.3), Ralph Sampson/Maurice Lucas 16th (KAN/POR, 9.2).

BPG

- Moses Malone (PHI, 3.8)
- Tree Rollins 2nd (DEN, 3.6), Terry Tyler 3rd (GSW, 3.3), Bill Walton 4th (POR, 3.2), Kareem 5th (LAL, 3.1), Truck Robinson/Kevin McHale 6th (CLE/BOS, 3.0), Robert Parish 7th (GSW, 2.7), Larry Nance 8th (ATL, 2.5), Bill Laimbeer 9th (DET, 2.4), Ben Poquette/Frank Brickowski/Kermit Washington/Julius Erving 10th (NJN/DAL/DAL/PHI, 2.3).

SPG
- Julius Erving (PHI, 3.0)
- George Karl 2nd (SD, 2.6), Michael Ray Richardson 3rd (HOU, 2.4), Clyde Drexler 4th (HOU, 2.3), Lionel Hollins 5th (POR, 2.2), Fat Lever 6th (CLE, 2.1), Maurice Cheeks 7th (2.0), John Drew 8th (ATL, 1.9), Billy Robinzine/Magic Johnson/Doc Rivers 9th (CLE/LAL/IND, 1.8), George Gervin/Bob Gross/Ricky Sobers/Billy Knight/Jamaal Wilkes/Larry Bird 10th (SA/POR/IND/IND/LAL/BOS, 1.7).

TOPG
- George Gervin (SA, 3.4)
- Kareem 2nd (LAL, 3.3), Bernard King 3rd (HOU, 3.2), Larry Bird 4th (BOS, 3.1), Adrian Dantley/Alex English/David Thompson 5th (NY/PHO/DEN, 3.0), Billy Knight/Kiki Vandeweghe 6th (IND/SD, 2.9), Butch Lee 7th (DAL, 2.8), Mark Aguirre 8th (DAL, 2.7), Mitch Kupchak/Moses Malone/George Karl/Norm Nixon/Robert Parish 9th (WAS/PHI/SD/WAS/GSW, 2.6), John Long/Nate Archibald/Derek Smith 10th (CHI/NJN/POR, 2.5).

MPG
- John Lucas (PHO, 38.8)
- Rolando Blackman/Sidney Moncrief 2nd (SEA/NY, 38.1), Alex English 3rd (PHO, 37.8), Kevin McHale 4th (BOS, 37.2), bob McAdoo 5th (NY, 36.9), John Long 6th (CHI, 36.7), Adrian Dantley 7th (NY, 36.5), David Thompson 8th (DEN, 36.3), Moses Malone/Phil Smith 9th (PHI/MIL, 36.2), Bernard King 10th (HOU, 36.1).

3-P Made
- Johnny Davis (POR, 259)
- Ernie Grunfeld 2nd (WAS, 190), Sam Smith 3rd (IND, 179), World b. Free 4th (LAL, 175), Bo Ellis 5th (NJN, 170), Bob Gross 6th (POR, 168), Paul Westphal 7th (WAS, 165), Slick Watts 8th (SEA, 162), Brad Davis 9th (KAN, 160), George Gervin 10th (SA, 158).

The season was over. Was I worried about our team starting to fall behind pace? Absolutely - and it didn't help that my father had started to become so worried about our commercial success. He rarely poked his nose into the team's affairs, but when he did he was insistent - such as Dale Ellis, who he all but ordered me to try and acquire this off-season. I was considering going into rebuild mode, but my dad insisted on keeping the team afloat - so for now, we tried to stay competitive. I had my doubts about landing any lucrative free agents, at least not any my dad would put down the money for (after refusing to pay for Moncrief the previous summer) but I kept my head up regardless - we were still a playoff team, and we were still competitive. Our luck was on the horizon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Boston Celtics win their 15th NBA championship, setting the record with the Lakers to 8-0 (9-0 if you count the win over Minneapolis). In what's been a fairly predictable stretch of championship teams the past few years, it's time we take a look at one of the teams who time and time again has seemed bright and poised to make a shot at the mantle - only to have injuries derail them at every shot. This year we visit one of the West coast's finest; the Portland Trailblazers. I'm Connie Hawkins, and this is "Inside a Team - the Portland edition."

--------------

For the past seven seasons, Portland has been looked at as a dark horse contender. They started off strong - in the 1977-78 season, Bill Walton, Bob Gross, Corky Calhoun, Maurice Lucas, and Lionel Hollins (assisted by guys like Jeff Wilkins, Herm Gilliam, and Dave Twardzik as well as coach Jack Ramsay) actually managed to take the team all the way to a NBA finals match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers, one in which they as Julius Erving notched a triple double in the 115-104 76er win at the Spectrum. As then rookie Ray Williams leaped on top of power forward George McGinnis while Mike D'Antoni and Joe Bryant hoisted up Erving, Bill Walton crouched down towards the court and prayed. "I'm not a religious man. I don't know if I'd even go so far as to call it a prayer" he tells me as we revisit the moment, watching clips from that final June 4th, 1978 game. "I was just making a promise to myself. I'd be back there, to that moment. And that time, I was going to win a NBA championship."

Portland had always been good. Since buying the team, owner Harry Glickman had always let Jack Ramsay and Stu Inman call the shots. When he he fired Inman over the summer of '82, bringing in hall of famer John Havlicek to call the shots, that love for Ramsay quickly dwindled. By the summer of 1983, Ramsay was gone too, on Havlicek's insistence. "We need to go all in on Hughes" Havlicek told me in his office shortly after the decision, referring to former San Antonio coach Rex Hughes who'd just parted ways with the team. "It's time for new brains and a new direction." Unfortunately for him, Hughes ended up in Chicago - so instead, Havlicek went with the young 36 year old coming out of Detroit, Mike Fratello. Fratello had been Chuck Daly's right-hand man these past few years, having started his career coaching under Hubie Brown in Atlanta. He liked a fast transition offense with smart tactical ball movement, which for the high-flying line-up of Lionel Hollins, Walter Davis, Bob Gross, Maurice Lucas, and Bill Walton, seemed like a perfect fit.

The start of the season was strong. While the Trailblazers lost their first game at home to the reigning champion Lakers, they won the next 7 straight, Walton dropping 30 points, 4 assists, 4 blocks, 3 steals, and 13 rebounds in a 118-109 game against Seattle that certainly shut down a lot of the critics worried that his injury last season had hurt his play. See, while Walton still commanded a lot of respect, his 1977-78 season that saw him win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year still fresh in many peoples mind, his recent stretch of injuries was absolutely devastating. In his 10 years of NBA experience he'd played just 474 games, missing 193 games the past 5 seasons. If Portland was going to win, he needed to stay healthy - no one on the starting unit was under 30 (though Lucas and Walton were just 31) and they had to capitalize soon.

Going into a December 9th match-up against the Detroit Pistons, the team was 20-5, dominating at the top of the conference ahead of the 18-6 Los Angeles Lakers. Lucas was averaging a dominating 22.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks, while Walton was averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, and a personal high 4.7 rebounds per game as the team coasted towards victory. Coach Mike Fratello had made these guys mesh, and the whole state of Oregon was watching. But nine minutes into that tragic game at Memorial Coliseum, it happened. Trailblazers fans will go to their graves claiming the hard shove from Laimbeer as he came into Walton from behind trying to grab a rebound over his head was malicious, but no one can really blame him for the outcome. Walton fell forward, his ankle went sideways, and he smashed into the court in agony having torn his left achilles, the same leg he'd broken before. The crowd was stunned. Even though the Trailblazers managed to still finish up with a 104-82 point victory, Lucas with 30 points and 7 rebounds, there were hardly any smiling faces coming out of that game. The season was practically over.

On the 14th, more tragedy came for Trailblazers fans when Lionel Hollins broke his elbow in a game. And then, even more - in a move Havlicek called "purely business" but really looked more like a move towards rebuilding, the Trailblazers sent Walter "Sweet D" Davis to Dallas for Billy Ray Bates, Al Wood, and the 1986 1st round pick. Davis, drafted 5th in the 1977 draft, had signed on with Portland in 1979 and had been one of the most consistent scorers on the team. His sweet shooting stroke coined the nickname, and the fanbase was absolutely devastated to see him go, angry fans showing up to the first home game following the trade - a December 19th match-up with the Lakers - with a variety of signs ranging from "DeBates this: We want Davis" to the much more simple "Fire Havlicek". The line-up, which due to injuries (Lucas out with a sore ankle) consisted of rookie Sidney Lowe, Billy Ray Bates, Bob Gross, George Johnson, and Darryl Dawkins. Portland was lucky they only lost by 20 - in the 102-82 slaughter, Lakers rookie John Paxson played 16 minutes while other bench players like Mike Dunleavy, Elmore Smith, and Curtis Parry played most of the second half. Yes - it was disaster mode.

The team managed a 115-104 win over Phoenix at home to close out the year - Bob Gross with 23 points - but then things got really bad. They lost a franchise record 11 games straight, including a 86-128 point loss to New York (Dantley with 45) at home, and by the All Star break they were 29-28, having earlier that season been at the top of the Western Conference. Head coach Mike Fratello called it an unfortunate series of events that no one could have accounted for - the fans roared for Havlicek's job. "He ruined this team" a young girl told me while waiting in line at one of the Memorial Coliseum concession stands. "Absolutely ruined it." Maurice Lucas didn't make the All Star cut, despite his almost completely solo efforts in keeping the team afloat (though in Bob Gross's defense he could score consistently) though Derek Smith did make the sophomore line-up, playing okay.

March 12th marked their yearly on the road game to Market Square Arena. Along side division rivals Golden State and Phoenix, Indiana was probably Portland's biggest rival, having crushed their attempts at the finals with two of their finest teams in the second round both in the 78-79 season as well as the 79-80, and this was one of those games everyone on the team wanted to win. Billy Ray Bates went out early in the second quarter after shouting at a referee and recieving his second technical, and suddenly it was Johnny Davis's moment to shine. He'd been absolutely stellar as of late, his work off the bench vital for the team as he averaged 18.9 points per game in his work, and in the Indiana match-up he came ready to go. He had 34 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals, tying up with Bob Gross (who had 29 and 9 rebounds) to help sneak away with a 103-100 win as Billy Knight's last second attempt at tying the game fell short. The team was still 32-36, quickly losing grounds on a solid spot in the playoffs, but these kinds of victories were well appreciated all around.

On March 19th, they played the Warriors. They were 33-38 now, so hopes weren't high, but if they could secure a win here it'd be huge for their playoff chances. Bob Gross had a killer night, shooting 11-19 for 33 points, but Robert Parish ran Darryl Dawkins into the ground for 26 points and 16 rebounds as the Warriors won 112-97. It was quickly becoming clear: these guys weren't contending, not anytime soon.

They finished the season 36-46 behind the 9th placed 37-45 San Diego Clippers and the 8th seed 39-43 Denver Nuggets. Their 1st round pick - which they'd traded to Washington in 1982 alongside their '82 pick and a '83 pick for Jim Chones and the pick they used to take Derek Smith at 9th - ended up becoming the second overall pick in the draft. Washington would later use that pick to select Michael Jordan, after Chicago selected Hakeem Olajuwon first overall - but that's another story for another time. As the season closed out in Portland I caught up with Bill Walton, who was recovering surprisably well from his torn Achilles. Did he think the team was falling to the wind? "Well... if it is, the only guy to blame is me." He chuckled, though I could see the pain in his face. "We had a shot in '78, and we blew it. We've been fighting to get there again ever since. Would I like to see it happen? Of course I would. But maybe it won't - if so, does it matter? Does it take away from what we accomplished anyways? Of course not. We're the 1978 Western Conference Champion Portland Trailblazers. We're no one to mess with."

This is Connie Hawkins with "Inside a Team - the Portland Trailblazers edition."
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