Even though the NBA is in the first few dribbles of its annual marathon, some conclusions seem evident: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will captain the All-Dumb team again: Kevin Porter will set unbeatable records for most scowls at own coach, season and career: the Bullets' most valuable player will be a nonstarter.
In fact, nonstarter is not quite appropriate for Mitch Kupchak because much of the splendid possibilities for the Bullets this season will start when he enters each game. That as the pattern established late last season - and continued through this year's opener Friday night.
Simply, Kupchak does everything right except get his name spelled correctly on his own sneakers (It was "Kupcheck" against the Pistons). He probably is the only player in the league who can play well at all three front-court positions - and one of the few for whom a 13-for-16 show from the field is not beyond reason once a week or so.
Forecasts are silly after one game,and it must be early in the season because one of the Pistons was heard yelling: "Let's get back on defense." Still, the Bullets seem swifter than last year, much deeper and capable of playing well despite an off night from Elvin (E as in "WE") Hayes.
Because the season is so long - fall, winter and much of spring will pass before the playoffs begin in earnest - the dedicated fan needs a proper starting point in assorted significant areas. And the opener produced the following:
First time Mike Riordan has been seen in public with a tie ("His funeral tie," Wes Unseld said).
First zone defense: Detroit with 4:30 left in the first period.
First uncalled goal-tend: Bob Lanier with 6:01 left in the first period.
First Bullet fast break: Tom Henderson to Larry Wright to Kupehak with 2:49 left in the first period.
First semi-serious argument with officials Hayes with 2:35 left in the first period.
First Hayes missed free thrown: 2:05. The second followed immediately.
First "hat trick" Henderson 5:00 second quarter.
First I'll-get-you-later look: Leon Douglas to Kupchak.
First charge taken: Henderson 10:52.
First dive for lose ball: Kupchak.
First time Kupchak hits floor: 3:24.
First odd substitution: Joe Pace for Hayes.
First Hayes long-turnaround jumper with giant in face that fails, 5:23 left fourth quarter.
First time star fouls out: Hayes 5:15 fourth quarter.
First time team looks better than [WORD ILLEGIBLE] s cheerleaders.
Of the Bullet cheerleaders, good taste limits the judgments to this: they ought to be encouraged to keep performing, but they should be given a 1968 schedule - when the team played in Ealtimore: Motta executed a better high kick protesting no foul called against Kevin Grevey's man. Tiny had more moves.
The first non-Bullet to discover the new Bullet speed was the fellow who broadcasts their games. Suddenly, Frank Herzog needed to loosen his tongue to describe action he often could call at a leisurely pace a year ago.
"We really are quick." Motta said, "with (Bob) Dandridge, Henderson and Wright. I'd hate to have to guard 'em. And the nice thing about us is that we're going to get better. I don't think we could have done what we did tonight without Elvin and Phil (Chenier) last season."
Dandridge seems to blend the way everyone thought he would, with smooth moves that waste no energy. And he grabbed nine rebounds. Something the Bullets rarely received from small forwards in the past.
With Chenier still ailing, the Bullets unleashed Grevey at guard to spell Wright - and he scored 12 points in 16 minutes. As usual, Kupchak was the most efficient Bullet, with 29 points in 32 minutes.
What the Bullets seem capable of doing is the most difficult chore in all of team sports - improve their record (48-34) while still in serious transition. They can put four players - Kupchak. Wright, Henderson and Dandridge - on the court who either were rookies or on other teams at this time a year ago.
And they have another fine rookie. Greg Ballard, and enough time to allow him to develop slowly and steadily. In five minutes, he showed all the proper instincts, once missing a fall-away jumper from the free-throw line and hustling back to grab his own miss.
So optimism is rampant, although the fan enthused that the Bullets reduced their "magic number" in the Central Division to 80 seems to be looking ahead just a bitfar.