Dick Motta doesn't like changes - any changes.
That is one reason why the world champion Washington Bullets is not overjoyed with the shifting of his team from the Central Division to the Atlantic Division.
When the National Basketball Association approved the move of the Buffalo franchise to San Diego last week, that put 12 teams in the Western Conference and only 10 in the East. To maintain an 11-11 balance, Detroit was moved into the East and placed in the Central Division and Washington was moved out of the Central into the Atlantic Division.
"I don't like the change, but we were the most logical to move," said Motta. "I didn't lose any sleep over it. I just don't particularly like it."
"We are in a scary division now. We are in with two store-bought teams and it could be difficult to survive when you are in the same division with the two richest teams in the league," Motta said, referring to the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Playing in the NBA is a lot like being in a poker game," Motta added, "and it's tough to beat the guy who has the most money.
"But heck, that's all down the long haul, anyway. If they don't mess with the scheduling or the playoff format, then you've still got a good chance to win it all, no matter what division you're in."
The scheduling and playoff formats have not been changed. Each NBA team plays the other 12 teams four times, except for two teams in the opposite conference which it plays only three times.
Each of the four division winners will qualify for the playoffs as will the next four best teams in each conference. The division winners will also get first-round playoff byes.
"We would have been favored to win our division if we were still in the Central Division," Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry said. "Now it is unknown who will win our division."
The Bullets' chief divisional competition will come from the rich boys on the block, the Knicks and 76ers. Both teams already are top-heavy with superstars and looking to buy more. The Knicks are supposedly only a center away from being a powerhouse and they are close to signing free agent Marvin (Human Eraser) Webster of the Seattle SuperSonics. That would shore up their defense and enable Bob McAdoo to move to his natural position as a forward.
The 76ers won 11 more regular-season games than the Bullets last year, but were upset by Washington in the Eastern Conference finals.
Both teams have remained pat so far, but Philadelphia is trying to trade George McGinnis for a ball-handling guard or an all-around forward.
The Bullets already have said they will make no changes.
"We owe that much to the people who got us the championship," Ferry said.
The present NBA alignment "is pretty sound on geographic limits," said Simon Gourdine, deputy commissioner of the NBA.
"The board of governors voted for it because it made the most sense geographically."
The Pistons are the team that seems to have benefitted most from the relignment.
"We wanted it. We wanted to leave the Western Conference," said Detroit public relations director Brian Hitsky. "We were the most eastern of the Western Conference teams.
"Our chances of making the playoffs are better in the East than they would have been in the West, too. We even have a chance to win our division."
Tough the realignment was done for geographic purposes, it also served to balance the league in terms of overall strength.
The strongest division last year was the Pacific, where all five teams had winning records and the last-place team in that division, the Golden State Warriors, won only one fewer game than the Bullets while failing to make it to the playoffs.
The worst two teams in the league, New Jersey and Buffalo, were both in the Atlantic Division. By moving to San Diego, the lowly Braves joined the powerful Pacific Division, thus evening the overall strength of both division.
"What you are trying to do is just get to the playoffs and hope for the best, so immediately, it shouldn't matter what division you are in," Motta said. "We didn't win our division last year and finished third in the conference. Look what happened to us. You still have to beat the same teams to get to the top."