Previewing the NBA: Philadelphia set to repeat as champion
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San Antonio is a veteran team that probably won't look much different under Morris McHone, Stan Albeck's former assistant, than it did under Albeck. However , the Spurs will go only as far as veteran center Artis Gilmore and a few new young players can take them. Denver is a great offensive team that probably depends too much on its super front line of Dan Issel, Alex English, and Kiki Vandeweghe. The Nuggets play defense when they think about it, which isn't often. Head Coach Dick Motta says that Dallas can make the playoffs this year if it can find just two things: (1) somebody who can take charge on the floor; and (2) some bench people who can score. While nobody was looking last year, Kansas City won 45 games for Cotton Fitz-simmons. But the Kings probably won't do it again without more defense and rebounding, which is why they acquired forward Mark Olberding from Chicago. Rebuilding has become a way of life for Utah, which will be showcasing a new crowd pleaser in forward Thurl Bailey, who was the leading scorer and rebounder on North Carolina State's NCAA champions. The Jazz, incidentally, will play 11 of their home games this year in Las Vegas. Rookie center Ralph Sampson is going to sell a lot of tickets in Houston, but insiders say his ultimate position in the pros will be as a forward and not in the pivot. Coach Bill Fitch, who spent the last four seasons in Boston, will also be counting on rookie forward Rodney McCray to help turn things around. The Rockets reached the NBA finals in 1981, were a playoff in 1982, but had the worst record in the league (14-68) last season. Pacific DivisionSkip to next paragraph
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Los Angeles hasn't said much about it, but if starting forward Kurt Rambis finds he can't play because of an injury, this team could be in big trouble. The alternative would be to start Bob McAdoo in Rambis's spot and hope McAdoo sacrifices some offense to concentrate more on defense and rebounding. The Lakers also have a new backup center in former San Diego Clipper Swen Nater. Seattle probably has as many good young players as any team in its division. But with a possibility of seven players making the club who were not there last year , it may take Coach Lenny Wilkens a while to get them all fitted into the same harness. Phoenix is always talking about building a team with more rebounding strength inside and this time the Suns may have done it. In addition to rugged forwards Maurice Lucas and Larry Nance, Coach John MacLeod will rotate three centers, including former Celtic Rick Robey. In Portland, Coach Jack Ramsay is so good at finding new ways to win that it is never wise to write off the Trail Blazers. This is a team that went through a fast growing experience last year with eight new faces who now understand the importance of togetherness. Jim Lynam, a Ramsay pupil, will coach San Diego this season. Again it is a case of Lynam having to fit the Clippers' large assortment of new players into a system that is probably unlike anything they've ever seen before. When Al Attles decided to move into the front office at Golden State, it also opened the door for assistant John Bach to become head coach. Bach's first priority will be to shore up a Warrior defense that ranked 15th in the league last season.