The problems that come with an expansion franchise in the National Basketball Association are about as tough to resolve as those of oarsmen on a slave ship whose captain suddenly decides he wants to go water-skiing! Not many good things are apt to happen for a while, at least not where the public can see them.
Dick motta is in a similar situations this year as head coach of the Dallas MAvericks, an NBA expansion team that has chosen to ignore whatever immediate success it might have had with veterans in order to build with youth. for the first few years, anyway, this will also be much easier on what is already a substantial Dallas operating budget.
"When I took this job, I knew what the problems would be," explained Motta, who in 1978-79 won a world championship with the Washington bullets. "Anytime you go with kids over veterans, you're going to lose a lot of games while you're getting things straightened out."
"But in the long run you're better off, because now you've got a foundation that will last for a while," Dick continued. "You can keep bringing in good new people through the college player draft until you've got the balance you want and the depth you need.
I'm not against veteran players. But I can't afford the luxury of high-priced playyers who are only going to help me for a year or two and then will have to be replace anyway. Basically I need that playing time to develop the kids."
Only 6 of 22 original players taken from existing NBA franchises in the expansion draft are still with the club. Most of the others have been traded for future draft picks or younger players, or released.
In fact, the Mavericks have now stockpilled nine first-round and nine second-round draft choices over the next six years. This is relatively the same kind of thinking that has made the defending NBA champion Los Angeles lakers such a power in recent years.
"Whenever you have to stock an expansion franchise with players from other teams, you're generally talking about three kinds of individuals who are made available," Motta said. "And when existing franchises are allowed to protect eight players, not many regulars or even good second-line players are left.
"What you can almost always count on getting are players who are no longer what they used to be because of injuries; players who are upseet about bad contracts they think they signed; and players with bad attitudes. I'm not saying they are all like that, but many of them are.
"I don't like to sit on the bench game after game and watch us lose," Dick continued. I'm as impatient for us to get competitive as anyone, and I can understand the frustraiton of our fans. But at least, where I'm with this club constantly, I can see progress. And although I haven't kept an accurate count, I'd say that in 11 or 12 games this year we've been the team with the lead at halftime."
The reason the Mavericks haven't been ahead more times at the end, Motta says , is partly because he doesn't have a 1980 first-round draft pick who can turn things around for him, and partly because he doesn't yet have enough of a bench.
"All teams need someone they can go to with confidence when the clock is running out, the score is close, and the pressure is on," Dick said. "We had hoped that someone like Kiki Vandeweghe, a good shooting forward whom we drafted No. 1 out of UCLA, could be that person for us.
"But Vandeweghe says that the only wants to play in the California area or maybe Ney York, where his father was an NBA player, and so far we haven't been able to sign him," he continued. "Since I've never seen Kiki play, except on television which limits how much a coach can learn about a guy, I don't know whether he can turn things around for us or not. But we'd like the chance to find out."
Motta says he didn't go into his first season with the Mavericks with victories as his primary goal.
"What I hoped to find were two players good enough to still be starting with this team four years from now, plus two more that I could develop into role playes for our bench," Dick explained. "If I can achieve that goal before the end of the season, then I'll figure we had a pretty good year."