Dick Motta could be faced with a familiar problem Sunday even though he will be coaching the East team in the NBA All-Star Game instead of the Washington Bullets.
His East back court is handicapped by injuries and sickness and could have difficulty handling the depth and talent of its West squad counterparts during the 1:45 p.m. contest in the Silverdome (WDVM-TV-9).
Philadelphia guard Doug Collins pulled out because of a foot injury and was replaced by center Bob Lanier of Detroit, who reinjured his knee in a game Friday but is expected to suit up Sunday.
Without Collins, Motta has only three true guards: hobbling Pete Maravich, who is plagued by a bad knee; George Gervin, who has been weakened by a bout with the flu, and little Calvin Murphy, who may have to play the bulk of the game.
"I probably will have to ask one of our forwards to play guard," said Motta, who will be coaching in his first All-Star Game. Among the possible candidates are Cleveland's Campy Russell and Washington's Bob Dandridge.
West guards include starters David Thompson and Paul Westphal plus reserves Otis Bridsong and Dennis Johnson.
Motta has taken a casual approach to this game. He joked today about bringing jump ropes to his team's practice session "and putting them through a workout they'd never forget." Instead, he held what he said was "an ideal practice. We stood around and talked."
He will do one predictable thing Sunday. Both Elvin Hayes and Dandridge will receive adequate playing time, although Julius Erving and Larry Kenon were voted by the fans to the starting forward positions.
Hayes was a last-minute pick in 1978 and played only 11 minutes. "Both he and Bobby deserve better," said Motta. "If they want to play, I want to use them."
This will be Hayes' 11th-straight All-Star appearance. Only four other players have been selected more: Bob Cousy, Jerry West, George Mikan and Dolph Schayes. They each played in 12. Dandridge has been chosen four times, the first three with Milwaukee.
Other West starters are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center and Maurice Lucas and Marques Johnson at forward. For the East, Moses Malone is the center and Maravich and Gervin the guards.
The Detroit Pistons, who have vigorously promoted the game, expect an All-Star record attendance of at least 30,000.