Nba Preview Western Conference

November 01, 1990|By Alan Goldstein

Midwest Division San Antonio Spurs Last season: First (56-26), lost to Portland in conference semifinals, 4-3.

Coach: Larry Brown (294-245).

New faces: F/C Sidney Green (trade), F David Greenwood (free agent), F Paul Pressey (trade), F Mike Mitchell (free agent), F Sean Higgins (draft), F Tony Massenburg (draft), C Dwayne Schintzius (draft).

Departed: F Frank Brickowski (trade), G David Wingate (released), C Uwe Blab (released), C Mark McNamara (trade).

Outlook: Brown has bolstered his bench with Green, Pressey and Mitchell on a talent-rich team built around C David Robinson.

Keys: Point guard Rod Strickland must overcome a reputation for inconsistency. If Schintzius can get his act together, the Spurs will have a rebounder to support Robinson and Terry Cummings.

Utah Jazz Last season: Second (55-27), lost to Phoenix in first round, 3-2.

Coach: Jerry Sloan (189-173).

New faces: G Jeff Malone (trade), C Walter Palmer (draft).

Departed: C Eric Leckner (trade), G Bobby Hansen (trade).

Outlook: Malone, with his outside touch, is considered the missing piece in building a championship team. That should help free F Karl Malone and F Thurl Bailey on the baseline.

Keys: Depth is lacking, particularly in the frontcourt behind Karl Malone and Bailey. The Jazz also requires G John Stockton's leadership 40 minutes or more.

Dallas Mavericks Last season: Third (47-35), lost to Portland in first round, 3-0.

Coach: Richie Adubato (54-87).

New faces: F Alex English (free agent), G Fat Lever (trade), F Rodney McCray (trade), G Phil Henderson (draft).

Departed: F Sam Perkins (free agent), C Bill Wennington (trade), G Steve Alford (released).

Outlook: The Mavericks traded four draft picks to obtain Lever and McCray. The Lever-Derek Harper-Rolando Blackman backcourt trio could be the league's best.

Keys: F Roy Tarpley's past drug problems make him a major question. Dallas is vulnerable at C with oft-injured James Donaldson.

Houston Rockets Last season: Fifth (41-41), lost to Los Angeles Lakers in first round, 3-1.

Coach: Don Chaney (139-210).

New faces: G Dave Jamerson (draft), F Carl Herrara (draft), G Kenny Smith (trade).

Departed: C Tim McCormick (trade), G Frank Johnson (released).

Outlook: G Sleepy Floyd proved an unreliable floor boss, losing the job to Vernon Maxwell. C Akeem Olajuwon tends to sulk during losing streaks.

Keys: Chaney is counting on Jamerson to make an instant contribution, freeing Olajuwon to work inside. If the Rockets get off to a slow start, Chaney could lose his job.

Denver Nuggets Last season: Fourth (43-39), lost to San Antonio in first round, Coach: Paul Westhead (139-104), first season with Nuggets.

New faces: F Orlando Woolridge (trade), G Chris Jackson (draft), G Stevie Thompson (draft), F Marcus Liberty (draft).

Departed: G Fat Lever (trade), F Alex English (free agent), C Danny Schayes (trade).

Outlook: Westhead is trying to impose a high-octane offense on the Nuggets, but they may lack the ingredients for 48-minute combustion.

Keys: The Nuggets will miss the consistent scoring of English and Lever. Jackson must supply help, but there are too many fresh faces to make Westhead's system work.

Minnesota Timberwolves Last season: Sixth (22-60).

Coach: Bill Musselman (49-127).

New faces: C Felton Spencer (draft), G Gerald Glass (draft), G Scott Brooks (trade), F Joe Wolf (trade), G Tim Legler (free agent).

Departed: G David Rivers (released), F Scott Roth (released).

Outlook: Of the original expansion picks, only Tyrone Corbin remains. By using the shot clock and tenacious defense, the Wolves were in almost every game last season.

Keys: First-round pick Spencer must supply needed rebounding muscle. Glass will ease the offensive pressure on Tony Campbell.

Orlando Magic Last season: Seventh in Central Division (18-64).

Coach: Matt Guokas (137-152).

L New faces: F Dennis Scott (draft), C Greg Kite (free agent).

Departed: G Reggie Theus (trade).

Outlook: After a fast start in the franchise's first season, reality underlined the need for a strong center and proven rebounder.

Keys: Scott will fill the scoring void left by Theus, but the Magic still lacks a big man.

Pacific Division

Phoenix Suns Last season: Third (54-28), lost to Portland in conference finals, Coach: Cotton Fitzsimmons (697-689).

New faces: F Ed Nealy (free agent), F Cedric Ceballos (draft), G Negele Knight (draft).

Departed: Rookie F Jayson Williams (trade), G Mike Morrison (trade).

Outlook: Phoenix has added backcourt depth in Knight, but may need a new sixth man to replace fading Eddie Johnson.

Keys: G Kevin Johnson must provide leadership in crunch time to be considered among the game's best.

Portland Trail Blazers ir,7p,10l Last season: Second (59-23), lost to Detroit in NBA Finals, 4-1.

Coach: Rick Adelman (73-44).

New faces: G Danny Ainge (trade), F Alaa Abdelnaby (draft).

Departed: G Byron Irvin (trade).

Outlook: The bench is unreliable, but Abdelnaby, a late first-round pick, could prove a steal.

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