ON SECOND THOUGHT, MR. ROBEY . . .
Let's step into the confessional. The time has come for me to 'fess up.
I must start the new year by admitting to a terrible thought process. My crime? I wanted to trade Rick Robey for a guard. What guard? Oh, I don't know. Freeman Williams, maybe. Or perhaps Ron Brewer. I figured, "What the hell. The Celtics could use a guard and with Kevin McHale around, Boston can afford to lose Robey."
Wrong. As Roberto de Vicenzo once so eloquently put it, "What a stupid I am." There have been several reasons for Boston's 1980-81 success, but two stand out. The first, of course, is the nightly all-around brilliance of Larry Bird. The second reason is the way Bill Fitch has rotated his five big men. Rick Robey, who has regained his rhythm and aggressiveness during the past two weeks, is a big part of that rotation. Boston's front-court might is its most irreplaceable team asset. I'm not so convinced this particular team can't go all the way with a healthy M.L. Carr back in the lineup. I am now definitely opposed to breaking up this altitudinous, mobile, young corps of big men in order to obtain a guard. This much-discussed guard must be obtained in some other manner; I realize that now.
OK, now I feel cleansed. I can start the new year without a guilt feeling. My apologies to Rick Robey.-
More on the soap opera that is the Cleveland Cavaliers: At last look, Randy Smith was avoiding huddles during time outs . . . I haven't checked, but I would doubt that any other team could match Boston's feat of having three men post 10-assist games this year. When Bird compiled 10 against the Suns on Tuesday night, he joined Tiny Archibald and Chris Ford in the 10-assist club . . . One of the key requisites for a winning streak is luck. The Celtics caught the Hawks without Tree Rollins and the Suns without Rich Kelley. Neither of those teams is the same without those two big men . . . I haven't heard as much complaining about officiating as I usually do. Incidentally, Fitch believes the young referees he has seen come in the past few years are clearly better prepared than the rookies of the early '70s.-
Fitch on Robert Parish: "Robert is having a great year, but I'd like to see him move up still another notch. As far as he's gone this year, he can still go farther. This is no time for him to become complacent. I believe he will reach his potential, however, because next summer he's going to dedicate himself to basketball, which is something he's never done before." . . . Let me add that in addition to being a very good player, Parish has proven to be something else - fun to watch. I'm not a big fan of centers, as a rule. So few players understand the position (two who did were Bill Walton and Willis Reed), the result is an eyesore to a basketball purist. Parish is showing signs of understanding the position. He has scored from inside and out. He has passed well. He has put the ball on the floor. He has rebounded and hit the outlet man. He has anchored the defense. He has been, in sum, a visual treat . . . One more thing abour Parish: After meeting with Parish in Boston, Ron Thomas of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "I have never seen a happier Robert Parish." Well, he's made people in Boston pretty happy, too.-
Here's your answer to the burning question, "How does Paul Westhead enjoy life without Magic Johnson? "There is," says Westhead, "a different adjustment every night. Last year, we could always get into our offense because of Magic. It's not so easy now. Last year, we just put the record on every night and let it play. We're just not the same team now. We've got to work much harder." . . . One continuing bright spot in Los Angeles is Jamaal Wilkes. Laker observers say Wilkes gets better every year, and after watching him take apart the 76ers Sunday night, I certainly won't argue. And yet Wilkes can't get full public recognition of his greatness. "Wilkes," suggests Westhead, "will always remain a secret because of his demeanor (he makes a BBC newsman seem animated) and because he plays with Kareem. He'll go out and get 30 points against somebody and if he does it two nights later, people act surprised."-
What is going on in Portland, you ask? Some feel it's as simple as the fact that rookie guard Kelvin Ransey has taken over the team's offense. The Trail Blazers obtained him to do just that. "Ransey singlehandedly beat us twice," says Westhead. Among the things you missed, thanks to Ch. 4's inexplicable non-telecast of the Suns game was a character known simply as "The Gorilla." He's no San Diego Chicken, but he's surely the Avis of sideline creatures. The highlight of his act came in the fourth quarter when he did a "Rocky" routine that included one-arm push-ups at midcourt, followed by a sprint to the top of the Coliseum steps for a Stallone-style self- congratulatory tribute. The act helped take the crowd's mind off the fact that the Celtics were doing an incredible tune on Phoenix' faces at the time.-
Rumors are really flying in Atlanta to the effect that Hubie Brown has his eyes on the Nets' job for next year. The interest is understandable, since most everyone predicts that when the team moves to the Meadowlands the franchise will be a gold mine, and because Hubie is a native of Elizabeth, which is a couple of exits down the New Jersey Turnpike from the new building. Speaking of the Nets, many of the players have intimated that Cliff Robinson may not be as hurt as he's made out to be. That's a tough charge to hang on a 20-year-old kid . . . Kevin McHale says that one reason he hasn't had all that many defensive rebounds is the necessity to keep some of the people he has been guarding (like Dan Roundfield, for example) off the boards. He's content to block out and let Bird and Parish go to the glass. But one rebound he really wanted was the game-clincher against Atlanta. He went to the rafters for that one . . . Fitch on Walter Davis' position switch from forward to guard: "On that team, it's a good idea. But if they had a big center he'd be better off as a small forward. He'd be an ideal small forward for New York. Get him one-on-one against any forward in the league and he can't be stopped. He isn't going one-on-one as much as a guard . . . Bird remains an endless topic of NBA conversations. Says Paul Silas: "Magic has more talent, but nobody, and I mean nobody, understands the game of basketball right now as well as Larry Bird. He's like players used to be in the olden days." Houston's Del Harris said: "After he gets a few of those assists, you've got to start cheating on him. And if you cheat by a half to a full step on him, he'll kill you with his scoring.". . . I can truthfully report that in a half season just concluded I have quoted rival coaches on the subject of Bird's shooting, rebounding, passing, toughness, and court presence. But only Bill Fitch knows what it's like to have a multidimensional player who puts out 82 nights a year, injured or healthy, and who, as Fitch says, "will not be affected, no matter how much is written and said about him." What about Larry's 0-for-9 rock two nights ago in Oakland? "I always say that nothing Larry could do would surprise me," Fitch says. "I guess that was a stupid statement."
Gee, I'd like to stick around, but I've got to work on my jump hook for the writers' 3-on-3 contest at the All-Star Game. Stop snickering, Jesse Branson.