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Nba Eastern Conference Outlook

November 05, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTIC DIVISION BOSTON CELTICS

Will the Celtics miss Kevin McHale, who led the league in field goal percentage at .604 and was sixth in scoring with a 26.1-points-a-game average? Does the Boston Garden have rats?

For the first time since 1975, three rookies have made the Celtics' opening-day roster--7-foot center Brad Lohaus of Iowa, swing man Reggie Lewis of Northeastern and forward Mark Acres of Oral Roberts. Acres, who attended Palos Verdes High School, was signed by the Celtics as a free agent. He played the last two seasons in Belgium.

The Celtics, looking for room to maneuver under the salary cap, unloaded veterans Sam Vincent and Scott Wedman.

Whatever the Celtics' problems, Larry Bird seems determined to succeed. He began lifting weights just nine days after the playoffs ended and dropped 15 pounds. Guard Dennis Johnson also lost 10 pounds during the summer.

WASHINGTON BULLETS

Bob Ferry, the Bullets' general manager, has been making more deals than Monty Hall lately.

The Bullets, a bust in the playoffs last spring acquired forward Bernard King from the New York Knicks.

King, who led the NBA in scoring in 1984-85, has played just six games in the last two seasons after undergoing knee surgery, but the Bullets, who ranked 22nd in field goal percentage and 19th in scoring last season, were desperate for another scorer to share the load with the Malones, Moses and Jeff.

The Bullets made another big deal earlier this week, trading forward Jay Vincent and guard Michael Adams to Denver for guard Darrell Walker and second-year forward Mark Alarie.

Vincent, acquired from Dallas for a first-round pick, was a bust last season, averaging a career-low 13.3 points and shooting just .447, also a career low.

Center Moses Malone, acquired from the 76ers last season, was a big hit in D.C., averaging 24.1 points, but the Bullets were a big bust in the playoffs. Washington bit the bullet in three games, losing to the Detroit Pistons in a first-round sweep.

The Bullets will have the tallest and shortest players in the NBA this season in 7-6 center Manute Bol, and 5-3 guard Tyrone (Mugsy) Bogues of Wake Forest, the 12th player drafted last June.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

The post-Doc era will begin this season, and with Julius Erving no longer making the rounds, the 76ers will have to rely even more on All-Star forward Charles Barkley.

Barkley, who has the biggest mouth in the NBA, is coming off a phenomenal season. He led the league in rebounding, was third in field goal percentage and 15th in scoring. Barkley, who seemed to resent Dr. J's farewell tour last season, will have the spotlight all to himself.

The 76ers, however, are in serious need of a center, and Christian Welp, a 7-footer from Washington, who was the team's top draft pick, is what is known as a project. So, the team is stuck with plodding Tim McCormick in the middle. Still, the 76ers have Maurice Cheeks, one of the league's most fluid point guards. He averaged 15.6 points last season, was third in the NBA in steals and 10th in assists.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Rick Pitino, who left Providence to return to the Knicks, is the youngest head coach in the NBA at 35 but he may get old fast.

Pitino, who took Providence to the Final Four last season in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament, was an assistant to Hubie Brown in 1983-85. Pitino didn't take long to rebuild Providence but he may need a little longer to rebuild the inept Knicks, who came within one loss of setting a team record. They also finished last in the NBA in both rebounding and scoring.

Pitino plans to run and press all over the court and has signed free-agent forward Sidney Green of Detroit to help on the boards. Green was the second-leading rebounder for the Pistons, who led the NBA in that category.

The Knicks, who traded away their lottery pick to Seattle for Gerald Henderson, drafted guard Mark Jackson of St. John's late in the first round. Jackson figures to play a key role in the Knicks' rebuilding.

NEW JERSEY NETS

Things may be dull around the Meadowlands without Darryl Dawkins, the NBA's leading flake, who now is with the Utah Jazz, but the team will probably get along just fine without Chocolate Thunder, who was sidelined for all but six games last season.

Rookie guard Dennis Hopson of Ohio State, the third player drafted, is expected to light up the Nets' offense. Hopson, who averaged 29 points, was the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Wednesday, the Nets acquired 6-foot 9-inch rookie Dallas Comegys of DePaul from Atlanta, which selected him with the 21st pick in the draft.

CENTRAL DIVISION ATLANTA HAWKS

This team came within two wins of beating out the Celtics for the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference last season.

The Hawks, who had the best defense in the NBA and were second in rebounding, have the best forwards in the division in Dominique Wilkins and 7-foot power forward Kevin Willis, who averaged 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds in his best NBA season.

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