BEST TEAM EVER?
Of Alltime Teams, Coaches, Players and Such:
It wasn't a popular vote in these parts, but maybe the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers really were the best one-season team of all-time. And if they weren't, maybe the 1971-72 Lakers were. Anyway, even Red Auerbach can't tell you which of his Celtic teams he thinks was the best.
There appear to be three Boston possibilities, 1960-61, 1961-62 and 1964-65. The first group went 57-22 and then romped through the playoffs with an 8-2 record and an 11.6 points-per-game victory margin (their four winning spreads in the finals against St. Louis were 34, 8, 15 and 9). The team featured the prime-of-life trio of Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn and Frank Ramsey; contained a backcourt rotation of Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman (in his last year), Sam and K.C. Jones; and also included the rookie Satch Sanders, a healthy Jim Loscustoff and a useful Gene Conley. It played in an eight-team league.
The '61-62 club compiled a 60-20 record. Two memorable playoff struggles ensued, the first a seven-game thriller with Philly (remember Sam's banker to win the final game by two?) and the second a seven-gamer with the Lakers climaxed by Frank Selvy's miss. This team was 31-10 against the over .500 teams in a nine-team league, but it did not dominate in the playoffs.
The final entry was the formidable '64-65 team. It was Heinie's last year, but Willie Naulls spelled him adequately. Russell was still in full command of his physical powers, Sam had his biggest year (25.9 ppg) and John Havlicek was now Mr. Sixth Man. Again playing in a nine-team circuit, the team was 29-11 against the over .500s and 8-4 in the playoffs. This was the year that Havlicek Stole The Ball.
The 68-14 Boston team of '72-73 toiled in a 17-team league weakened by expansion, and this similar argument can be lodged against the aforementioned Laker powerhouse of '71-72. But check these LA credentials: A 69-13 record. A 12-3 playoff record (4-0, 4-2, 4-1). A starting backcourt (Gail Goodrich and Jerry West) that averaged a shade under 52 points a game. Wilt Chamberlain in the middle. Happy Hairston (1045 rebounds) and Jim McMillian (18 ppg) in the corners. The celebrated 33-game winning streak. A 29-8 record against over .500 clubs. In fact, only one team (Phoenix) beat them more than once all season. They may have a helluva case.
There is much fodder for discussion here, but I will ask you this question: In a one-game playoff for the inter-galactic championship, would you back a team centered by Russell or one centered by Chamberlain? Waiter, another round, please.-
Most Appreciative Award at the 35th anniversary luncheon in New York on Thursday went to Bob Pettit. "This is," he declared "an unimaginable thrill for someone who never scored a point as a freshman in high school, who was cut as a sophomore and whose only goal at the time was to get a letter before he graduated." Pettit, one of only four holdovers from the 1971 Silver Anniversary squad (along with Cousy, George Mikan and, of course, Russell), was afraid the younger voting membership of the Pro Basketball Writers would have forgotten him . . . Havlicek, on making the squad: "I remember thinking back in '71 that they probably wouldn't pick another team until the 50th anniversary, so I wasn't concerned at the time about making the team." . . . Both Auerbach and Bill Fitch think one of the toughest omissions from the 11-man squad was Elvin Hayes. "Dave DeBusschere," adds Fitch, "is another one. He would always find a way to beat you." But Auerbach stresses that he has absolutely no quarrel with the composition of the team. For the record, he is a Dr.J. fan of long-standing.-
Paul Silas is a desperate man out there in San Diego. He has soured on his entire original front line of Swen Nater, Sidney Wicks and Joe Bryant. Silas feels he has the following assets: the backcourt of Brian Taylor and Phil Smith; rookie forward Michael Brooks; and role-playing veterans Gar Heard and Henry Bibby. He also likes Freeman Williams, but feels he must deal him in order to get a big man of any substance. And where does Irv Levin fit into all this? "He's been very supportive," Silas reports. "He's trying to help me get players." . . . The Dallas Mavericks are finding it difficult to move Austin Carr since they gave the 32-year-old guard a four-year guaranteed contract in order to sign him last summer . . . We suffered through a recent rash of anthem singers who all apparently were hoping that David Merrick was in the stands for the express purpose of casting his next musical. Stop the styling, boys. Just get it over with so we can throw the ball up.