A six-game winning streak has done wonders to lower the anxiety level around the Forum. But owner Jerry Buss, for one, wasn't surprised at the stretch in which the Lakers won just three of nine games after an 8-0 start.
Buss said he expected this season to contain periods of struggle.
"I was concerned the minute we won the championship last season," Buss said. "I think repeating has its own problems.
"When we ran off eight in a row, I thought, 'Well, Jerry, maybe you don't know what you're talking about,' but now that this (losing) period came, it was to be expected."
There's really no mystery, Buss said, to why champions have so much trouble repeating.
"When you win the championship," he said, "you play about 25 games where the world is on the line. You're playing for high stakes. Suddenly, the regular season comes, which for other people may mean high stakes--they're playing the defending champions--but you can't help feeling a decrease in intensity.
"It's like if you're sitting in a poker game with your buddies on a Thursday night with a $10 ante, then you're asked to sit in on a ladies' game the next afternoon with a $1 limit. If you do, it's not going to be quite the same thing."
Buss said he believes it will take anywhere from 20 to 30 games for the Lakers to readjust.
"I think by the 50th or 55th game, you'll see the Lakers," Buss said. "I'm not disappointed at all. I think is a great team."
Pete Newell, the coaching legend who does some scouting for the Cleveland Cavaliers on the West Coast, had Ralph Sampson in his big man camp a couple of summers. Newell believes Sampson's trade to Golden State--and his return to the center position--should do wonders for his career.
"Now that he's at his position, he should be given an opportunity before anyone makes a judgment on whether Ralph is as good as he'll ever be," Newell said. "I'd like to see him play a year, a year and a half at center to see if improvement does come. I hope the people up there (in Golden State) teach him, give him some opportunity to work on his moves.
"(Warrior Coach George) Karl said he's the best center in the NBA. That's ridiculous to say that. Let's not put that kind of pressure on him."
The Sacramento Kings have yet to win on the road anywhere this season, so it's a good bet that their 33-game Forum losing streak to the Lakers, which goes back to Nov. 30, 1974, will be extended here Wednesday night.
Bill Kreifeldt, Utah Jazz publicist, assembled some trivia associated with the streak. To wit:
--Bill Russell will be the seventh Kings' coach to try to win at the Forum. In '74, he was in his first season as Seattle coach and the Kings were the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.
--Of the 13 Kings on the current roster, only Terry Tyler was in college at the time the streak started. Tyler was a freshman at the University of Detroit. Kenny Smith, the Kings' No. 1 draft pick this year, was 9 years old the last time the Kings won at the Forum.
--Willis Reed, currently an assistant with the Kings, had just retired from the NBA as a player six months earlier.
How do you pick a winner for tonight's Celtic-76er game in Philadelphia? The Celtics beat the 76ers by 37 points on Sunday, but a month ago in Philadelphia, the 76ers won by 31.
Add Boston-Philly: The 76ers never led in Sunday's game, trailing, 6-0, 12-2, 24-7 and 36-19 after one period. Boston's biggest lead was 49 points, 116-67, with 7:03 left to play.
"Fellas, these things are going to happen once in awhile," said Philadelphia forward Charles Barkley. "But what am I going to do? Kill myself? That won't change the outcome of the game."
Said Celtic Coach K.C. Jones: "We were hot, and they were cold. And I'll take that every night."
More Barkley: He's having an MVP-type season, ranking among the league leaders in scoring (second), rebounding (second) field goal percentage (first) and three-point shooting percentage (10th), which is why he took exception when he heard that Utah Coach Frank Layden said he wasn't among the league's elite players.
In truth, Layden said Barkley didn't rate with the elite three--Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan--but no matter, a mini-controversy was born.
Said Barkley: "Frank Layden is entitled to his opinion. He's a coach. But is he an elite coach?"
Add Layden: The Utah coach found himself in more elite company when he recently addressed a group of Harvard Law School students.
Said Layden: "It was terrible. I knew--everyone knew--I was the dumbest one in the room."