Forget Joe DiMaggio. Where in the world did Bob McAdoo go? A former National Basketball Association scoring champion, McAdoo has virtually dropped out of sight during the past several months. In fact, he spent the just-ended regular season playing for the lowly Detroit Pistons, whose dreary 16-66 record was the NBA's worst.
As bad as the Pistons were, however, McAdoo is in part responsible for the good things that have happened in Boston and New York. For it was what the Celtics and Knicks got in exchange for him that has given these clubs such bright futures.
Midway through last season, New York shipped him off to Boston in return for three first-round draft choices. The Knicks used the first of these (the third overall pick) to draft Bill Cartwright, a smooth seven-foot center New York feels it can build around. Then before the current season, the Celtics sent McAdoo to Detroit as compensation for signing free agent M. L. Carr. Boston also got two 1980 first-rounders.
As things have turned out, Carr is now an invaluable sixth man on the rags-to-riches Celtics, who achieved the greatest turnaround in the NBA's 34 -year history by finishing with a league-best 61-21 record. Theoretically, Boston should be the last team to pick in the draft, but because of the McAdoo deal, the Celtics will now get the very first selection on the opening round. Talk about the rich getting richer!
The Celtics faithful, of course, are ecstatic about this windfall profit, which gives Boston the only opportunity it has ever had to pluck the No. 1 collegian. The club reportedly is interested in 7 ft. 4 in. Ralph Sampson, the freshman who led Virginia to this season's National Invitation Tournament championship. If Sampson decides not to declare himself a "hardship" case and stays in school, Boston might then select 7-1 Joe Barry Carroll of Purdue or 6-4 Darrell Griffith of Louisville. You can imagine how excited Celtics fans get just daydreaming about Griffith's joining Larry Bird and Pete Maravich on the roster.
But back to McAdoo, the forgotten man in all the talk about the rebuilt Celtics and rebuilding Knicks. He has been the domino that began the chain reaction, a glittering offensive player who appealed to teams wanting to quickly right themselves.
"Big Mac" entered the NBA in 1972 after starring at North Carolina. Playing for the Buffalo Braves, he won the first of three consecutive scoring titles beginning with the 1973-74 campaign. The next season he established a career-best with 34.5 points a game. His average has fallen almost every year since then, this season dipping to 21 points per outing. McAdoo is a superb pure shooter, but his liabilities have always been his rail-like 6-9 frame (an in-between size in the NBA) and his less-than-fearsome defense.