THE NATIONAL Basketball Association has rechoreographed the show in an effort to present an all-new people-pleasing act when the curtain goes up on the 1979-80 season Friday night.
There are new faces, new rules, a new team, a shorter season and a new schedule format -- all of which the league hopes will stir excitement for devotees the next eight months.
As John Gianelli of the Utah Jazz said, "We are now a combination of the ABA and the Eastern League."
The biggest new names are, of course, flashy Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and classy Earvin (Magic) Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers, two Pierre Cardin suits for a league used to wearing clothes from JC Penney.
Some pretty big names have changed teams. Adrian Dantley and Bernard King are Jazzmen; Bob Mcadoo is a Piston; Bill Walton a Clipper, M. L. Carr a Celtic; Rich Kelley a Net and Kevin Porter a born-again Bullet.
The NBA has gone forward to the three-point field goal and backward to two officials. And instead of playing every team in the league four times, each team now will play the other teams within its conference six times and the teams in the other conference only twice.
When it all gets down to the final two teams sometime next May, it could be a repeat of the past two seasons -- the still-old Washington Bullets and the ever-young Seattle Supersonics.
Individually, San Antonio's George (Ice) Gervin will be gunning for his third straight scoring title; Houston's Moses Malone is out to show that he may be the best rebounder the game has ever had; San Diego's Walton is hoping a year off did him more good than harm, and Washington's Porter is determined to rewrite the Guinness Book of Records for assists.
The new team is the Utah Jazz, the relocated New Orleans Jazz, who have moved from the Superdome to the Salt Palace.
The NBA also has vowed to end all of this madness by Memorial Day by cutting the number of days off between games.
Here is how it all shapes up:
The Washington Bullets still are the team to beat in the East.
They have added Porter to run the offense and, when Mitch Kupchak returns in December, the Bullet bench should be as strong as ever, with Greg Ballard and Larry Wright also filling relief roles.
The front line of Bobby Dandridge, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld is as wily as any in the league and those players want another championship before age -- if nothing else -- breaks them up.
The emergence of second-year man Roger Phegley will give the Bullets more firepower in a backcourt that already has Kevin Grevey.
Coach Dick Motta has put in a new offense to better utilize Porter's talents and the high-stepper should give the Bullets a lot of easy baskets they were lacking last season.
The Bullets' biggest challenge within the conference probably will come from the Philadelphia 76ers. Julius Erving, sporting a new haircut, still is the one and only Doctor and it still is his team.
Doug Collins is back and healthy and with super quick Maurice Cheeks alongside him, the 76ers have a formidable backcourt.
The rebounding is left to 7-foot Darryl Dawkins and 7-1 Caldwell Jones, both of whom now start.
That leaves the smooth defensive specialist Bobby Jones coming off the bench.
The New York Knicks will be improved mainly because of 7-foot rookie Bill Cartwright. He is a much better offensive center than sorekneed Marvin Webster and he does not give up much on defense, either. He shed 25 pounds and is running and jumping better than ever.
How far the Knicks will go will depend greatly on forward Toby Knight and guard Earl Monroe. If Coach Red Holtzman can find a way to control guard Ray Williams, he could become a star.
Larry Bird is for real and he makes the Boston Celtics an exciting team. But the keys in Boston still are center Dave Cownes and guard Nate (Tiny) Archibald.
Archibald is playing like he did two seasons ago before rupturing his Achilles' tendon and, with the pressure of being player-coach removed, Cowens is like a frisky colt.
M. L. Carr was signed as a free agent and should fit in better with the Celtics than McAdoo, who went to Detroit as part of the compensation.
The New Jersey Nets still are improving, but they are in a very tough division and will be pressed to stay out of the cellar.
Mike Green has gone to Kansas City, Coby Dietrick to Chicago and Allan Bristow to Utah, but the San Antonio Spurs still are the Central Division favorites.
The reason is the Iceman, George Gervin was not feeling well before one preseason game so he scored 36 points in a half and then called it a night.
Free agent Larry Kenon re-signed with the Spurs and will give Gervin help.
The Atlanta Hawks are the only team in the league that probably will have the same 11-man roster it had last year.
John Drew is the big gun for the snappy Hawks, but he gets lots of help from Dan Roundfield, Steve Hawes, Armond Hill and Eddie Johnson. Tree Rollins got a late start because of a knee injury.
If the Houston Rockets had a time machine, they would go back to the day of the draft and pick someone other than Lee Johnson, 6-10 center from East Texas State. He did not even get past rookie camp.
Former Bullet Tom Henderson should give the Rockets stability, but with him and Calvin Murphy together in the backcourt, defensive troubles will abound.
Rick Barry is having knee problems again.
Moses Malone, who last season averaged 24.8 points, fourth best in the league, and 17.6 rebounds, the NBA'S best, will have to do it all over again if the Rockets are to be winners.
The Detroit Pistons got a major facelift with the acquisition of Mcadoo and free agent Jim Mcelroy, along with rookies Roy Hamilton of UCLA and Greg Kelser of Michigan State.
If Bob Lanier stays healthy and can blend with McAdoo, the Pistons will make Coach Dick Vitale a winner.
The big news in Richfield, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is that Bill Fitch is gone and Walt Frazier is back from an injury-ridden season. What new Coach Stan Albeck will do with veteran guard Frazier is the question.
The Cavaliers have talent and could surprise some people this season. Austin Carr, Foots Walker, Randy Smith and Frazier give them a tough backcourt; Campy Russell probably is the best jump-shooting 6-8 person in the league and Mike Mitchell is an up-and-coming forward. John Lambert and Elmore Smith give the Cavaliers plenty of size up front, too.
Now that Ann Meyers is gone, the Indiana Pacers' game plan will be to get the ball down low to 6-6 guard Billy Knight and let him work.
Newcomers are forward Mickey Johnson, a free agent from Chicago whose acquisition enabled Coach Slick Leonard to move Knight back to guard, and No. 1 draft pick Dudley Bradley of North Carolina, who came with a reputation for defense, but has impressed the Pacers with his offense.
WESTERN CONFERENCE PACIFIC DIVISION
The Seattle Supersonics are a good team made better. The defending NBA champs will have a healthy Tom Lagarde back to spell Jack Sikma, rookie James Bailey to give Lonnie Shelton some rest and rookie Vinnie Johnson to strengthen an already strong backcourt of Dennis Johnson -- the best all-around guard in the league -- Gus Williams and Fred Brown.
The only ingredient missing is Paul Silas, who played out his option and has not yet signed with any team.
The Los Angeles Lakers finally appear to be ready to win one for Kareem.
Spencer Haywood and Jim Chones have been acquired to give Abduljabbar some much-needed help on the boards. That enables Jamaal Wilkes to move back to small forward, where he is most effective. Abdul Jabbar, Haywood and Wilkes also give the Lakers the only all-Muslim front line in the league.
The new king of Tinsel Town, though, is Earvin (Magic) Johnson. He runs the show, and last year's Laker rookie sensation, Norm Nixon, is now the shooting guard.
New Coach Jack Mckinney, a former Portland assistant to Jack Ramsey, has installed a Ramsay-style passing offense.
Along with Seattle, the Phoenix Suns are the soundest young team in the NBA. No starter is older than 29 and all five -- Truck Robinson, Alvan Adams, Paul Westphal, Don Buse and Walter Davis have played in at least one NBA All Star Game since 1976.
The Portland Trail Blazers have more power forwards than Colonel Sanders has drumsticks. The healthy ones are Kermit Washington, who came to the Northwest from San Diego as part of the Walton compensation deal, and Jim Brewer.
The unhealthy ones are Mychal Thompson, who broke his leg over the summer and needed surgery to repair it, and a disgruntled Maurice Lucas.
Thompson is out indefinitely and Lucas, who supposedly had a bad thumb, is unhappy and wants to be traded.
The San Diego Clippers have Bill Walton and not much more.
Lloyd Free still will shoot from anywhere at any time, and, with forwards like Marvin Barnes and Sidney Wicks, who knows what will happen?
The Golden State Warriors are in trouble.
Phil Smith is trying to come back from a torn Achilles' tendon, but even if he does, he will not help the Warriors where they need help the most -- up front Sonny Parker, Tom Abernathy and Robert Parrish just don't cut it.
The Milwaukee Bucks have problems, too.
All-star forward Marques Johnson is in a contract dispute and has not reported to camp.
Dave Meyers, Ann's brother, has returned after back surgery last year and rookie Sidney Moncrief will help.
The Kansas City Kings, a surprise success last season, have their starting five back intact. Phil Ford and Otis Birdsong are a tough guard tandem, Sam Lacey is an adequate center and Bill Robinzine and Scott Wedman are good forwards.
The Denver Nuggets are another team that made few changes. The big guns still are George Mcginnis and David Thompson.
Mcginnis tore ligaments in his left ankle in the final game last season and isn't quite his old self.
Jerry Sloan is trying to make the Chicago Bulls a replica of Motta' s Bullets, but he doesn't have the personnel to pull if off.
New faces include No. 1 draft choice David Greenwood of UCLA and guard Ricky Sobers, who came to Chicago from Indiana as compensation for the Pacers' signing of free agent Mickey Johnson.
The Utah Jazz has Dantley, Peter Maravick, King and Ron Lee, but they probably will end up playing some bad tunes in Salt Lake. With Kelley gone, so are the boards, and Maravich's knees always are a concern.