May 25, 1980
The much discussed and long-awaited college draft will take place in 16 days, and things definitely are starting to heat up.
The Celtics own the No. 1 pick, as everyone knows, and many teams have indicated an interest in acquiring the selection. The front office says that when people call up to investigate the possibility of trading for the No. 1 pick, they indicate they would use it to take Joe Barry Carroll.
However, the conversations I had with people during the final series revealed a greater interest in Darrell Griffith, whom everyone, even the Celtics, acknowledge to be the single best talent in the draft (given that Ronnie Lester has a bum knee). "How could the Celtics possibly pass up Griffith?" was the query I heard from rival coaches, general managers and assorted front-office people.
The key to the first-round order will be Chicago, which picks fourth. Griffith, Carroll and Minnesota's Kevin McHale will be the first three men selected. Chicago would love to take Lester, but he recently underwent a physical exam which failed to clear up his murky status.
It didn't say he won't recover from his knee injury to be an effective player, but it didn't say he would, either. The Bulls would need more of an assurance in order to take him that high, so they'll probably pass on him. In that case they could take either Mike O'Koren or Jacksonville's James Ray, a 6-foot-9 forward with a nice shooting touch.
Somebody will take a chance on Lester in the first round, but whom? He might even be available for Boston when the Celtics use their second first- round choice at No. 13, and Bill Fitch is past president of the Ronnie Lester Fan Club. If he does recover, the team that gets him could be the happiest club in the draft.
The Celtics are intrigued by the offers they have been receiving for their pick. They say the deals get better all the time, and that's why they don't rule out the possibility of an 11th-hour offer they would not be able to refuse.
I never doubted for a minute that Paul Silas would some day wind up as an NBA coach. He has clear leadership qualities some team simply had to exploit. My happiness for him is tempered, however, by the sobering thought that San Diego is not a good situation. "I've got mixed feelings," he admits. "I'm very happy to have the job, but, at the same time, it's a bad situation. It will be a real challenge to get rid of some of these people." By that, of course, he means Lloyd Free, Sidney Wicks and Joe Bryant. Silas has a three-year contract in the vicinity of $125,000 a year, and he has control of all basketball operations, subject to Irv Levin's final say-so on financial matters. Incidentally, the first man he will interview for the assistant coach job is Bill Westphal, older brother of Paul. Bill, at present, is head coach at Occidental College. "I'm looking for a guy with college experience," Silas explains.
M.L. Carr recently underwent surgery on his esophagus to alleviate a breathing problem that had given him great difficulty this season . . . Maurice Lucas, who just picked up his degree from Marquette after six years of postseason study, is working out very hard in an effort to produce a big 1980-81 for himself. If that's true, it means that the best power forward in basketball will be back in action next season . . . Silas on Magic Johnson: "That young man made me a believer. He is authentic." . . . Yes, 'tis true. Tom Heinsohn will represent LaSalle's Michael Brooks in the latter's contract negotiations. If Heinie does half as good a job for Brooks as he does on those Captain Black TV commercials, the kid will become a trillionaire immediately . . . Did you notice that Paul Westhead gave the playoff share given him by the league to Jack McKinney, and that owner Jerry Buss then gave Westhead a matching share?
The Celtics became the eighth consecutive team to post the best regular- season record and then fail to win the playoffs. The last team to do both was the 1971-72 Lakers, of the 69-13, 33-straight fame. Wilt Chamberlain graciously stated in a recent interview that this Laker team was better than that team, but I am one of the many who disagree. I would take a starting five of Chamberlain, Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian, Gail Goodrich and Jerry West over one consisting of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Chones, Jamaal Wilkes, Norm Nixon and Magic Johnson. Just consider that the West-Goodrich backcourt avaraged 51 points a game between the two, that Wilt was a vastly superior rebounder and that Hairston also grabbed 1000 rebounds that season. I can't believe that Wilt was so magnanimous . . . What do we make of the fact that the Sonics are actively marketing Dennis Johnson? Sure, he is known to be a pouter, but he'd have to be a very divisive influence for Lenny Wilkens to take such a drastic step? On his good nights, DJ is the best two-way guard in the league. Because he is so talented, teams are wondering about the extent of his personality problems. On ability alone, he is surely worth having. Yet there have been very few nibbles . . . The Trail Blazers are said to be interested in moving up in the draft order by making a trade. They are currently choosing 10th.