Lakers Whining as Preseason Nears End

1981-82 Boston Celtics

It's difficult to erase the impression that the Western Conference of the NBA will emerge as a Seattle-LA showdown this year, because both the 1979 and 1980 champs have an awful lot going for them.

Seattle, beset by injury last season, has been revived by the return of both Gus (Which-Way-Did-He-Go?) Williams and Lonnie Shelton. Before too long, the 1980-81 season will be viewed as a bizarre aberration by Sonics' fans. The Lakers, meanwhile, will get mileage out of Mitch Kupchak, and will enjoy the services of Magic Johnson for a full season. LA is a very strong ball club from players one through six, and if Bill sharman can unearth a backup center somewhere (Kurt Rambis? Aw, c'mon), LA will be in excellent shape.

This is not to say that things will be perfect, because if anything can bring down the Lakers this year, it will be attitude. It was the impression of both the Sonics' and Celtics' players than Norm Nixon was in a pout, and it may be that he will never accept the return of Magic to the lineup.

And then there is Magic himself.

"He's not the same as he was the first year," says one astute local observer. "For one thing, he has become a perpetual moaner, bitching about every call. And he doesn't dish it off when he drives the lane as regularly as he used to. I'd be willing to bet that any game he fouls out of this year will contain at least two offensive fouls."

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