Emil Voodak, who kept the East on edge for years with his radical tactics as an active agent in Boston, has just about completed his managerial revolution in Cincinnati. He has run two of the city's leading citizens out of town, and many of their accomplices with them, and replaced them with a cadre of his own. He has silenced the last voices of opposition within his organization and reigns supreme. Last summer, befitting his Bolshevik tendencies, he grew a full beard as he plotted strategy for the coming season. The beard was not for purposes of disguise; by then everyone knew Voodak by his real name: Bob Cousy. Cooz used the Voodak pseudonym as a cover-up on airline manifests, hotel registers and correspondence in order to keep the press off the trail while he was plotting with Cincy officials to take over the Royals. What he will do to keep the local press off his back this year is another matter.
With almost no one left from the Lucas-Robertson era, Cousy will give Cincinnati plenty of excitement, if not a winning team—especially when rookie Guard Nate Archibald is on the court. Archibald reminds Cousy of himself as a beginning pro, "a throwback," as he describes Nate, to the days of the quick, sure ball handlers who dominated the game before the giants took over. Archibald and Norm Van Lier make a skillful, imaginative pair in backcourt, adept at penetrating defenses, but they cannot mask the deficiencies of a front line that depends on 36-year-old Johnny Green for most of its rebounding. The revolution requires a five-year plan before it approaches fulfillment.
The division's established powers, Atlanta and Baltimore, will provide excitement, too, if only because of the presence of Pete Maravich and Earl Monroe. And their battle for first place, which Atlanta should win, figures to be the tightest among the NBA's four divisions. The Hawks' new blue and lime-green uniforms, complete with bell-bottomed warmup pants, go well with the mod ensembles of Coach Richie Guerin, who was showing off a double-breasted, flare-trousered gray suit with pink stripes during the exhibition season. Maravich will be called on when the Atlanta attack turns dull; he will not be a starter. He and another rookie, UCLA's John Vallely, are talented, if inexperienced, backup guards behind regulars Walt Hazzard and Lou Hudson. Guerin can start any of four strong frontcourt combinations, but his most versatile player, Joe Caldwell, is unlikely to be among them. Caldwell will be coming in off the bench, giving the Hawks the best sixth man in the league.
The old fraternity cheer "Rah-rah ree, kick'm in the knee; rah-rah rass, kick'm in the other knee" brings no laughs in Baltimore, where the definition of good health is having only one sore knee. Monroe had both of his operated on last summer, and four other Bullets are recovering from or are having knee problems, including top draft pick 6' 11" George Johnson. Johnson was expected to give Baltimore frontcourt depth, but his immobility in preseason games indicated he would have difficulty guarding anything more elusive than a tree and he has been put on the injured list for the season.
October 26, 1970
Still, the Bullets will have the league's most volatile offense. Nobody clears defensive rebounds with the authority of Center Wes Unseld, which enables the always fast-breaking Bullets to begin their attack deeper in opposition territory than any other team. And when it stalls, Monroe—short of his requiring a cane—is a most frustrating man to handle one-on-one.
Frustration will be the theme in Cleveland all season. The Cavaliers have the weakest personnel of the three expansion teams. Cleveland's only edge is in coaching. Bill Fitch, who came to the Cavaliers from the University of Minnesota, is a bright, fast-working team builder, and his eye is on the future. Secretaries in the Cleveland front office will be practicing calling coin flips all winter, and the one with the highest percentage of correct choices will call the season-end toss when the Cavs flip with the other last-place finishers to determine which drafts first. It will be their only chance to be higher than fourth all year.
Far from any revolution, the Central Division will feature that old American standard, a two-team race.