For the first time in the history of the National Basketball Association's All-Star Game, no Washington Bullet will be playing Sunday (1 p.m., WDVM-TV-9). Elvin Hayes of the Bullets will be missing for the first time in his 13-year career.
Every member of the West team has had All-Star Game experience. The East has only three newcomers: Robert Parish of Boston, Reggie Theus of Chicago and Mike Mitchell of Cleveland.
Mitchell earned a spot on the team after Atlanta's Dan Roundfield was forced out with a leg injury. Mitchell is the only member of the host cavaliers on the squad. East Coach Billy Cunningham of Philadelphia named Boston's Larry Bird to start at Roundfied's forward spot opposite Julius Erving.
The other East starters are Chicago's Artis Gilmore at center and Atlanta's Eddie Johnson and Theus at guards.
A sellout crowd of more than 20,000 will be at the Richfield Coliseum for the game and it will most likely be treated to the wide-open, free-lance type of contest that makes the All-Star Game so appealing.
"The All-Star Game is supposed to be fun and I plan to have fun and make the game fun to watch for the fans," said Erving. "Now is the time to do some of the things that you might not normally do during the regular season."
More than 5,000 specatators trekked to the Coliseum to watch the two teams practice today and Erving, the leading vote-getter in fan balloting, was one of the biggest hits. He shot around for a while with two of his three children and he played a little one-on-one against the 7-foot-2 Gilmore while people in the stands yelled, "Dr. Chapstick, Dr. Chapstick." g
Bird has a painful thigh bruise, sustained when he tried to stop a Darryl Dawkins dunk in the Celtics' game against the 76ers last Wednesday. Bird played only part of the first quarter the next night against Chicago and has been resting the leg ever since.
"I tried to play in Chicago, but there was just too much pain," Bird said. "I feel pretty good now, though, and I think it'll be fine by game time. If it was going to impair me for any future games, I wouldn't be playing."
Bird says he is playing to win. "It's hard to go out and play like a team in games like this sometimes, but we have people who can do it. Sometimes seeing that is more fun than watching a lot of individuals out on their own."
The bench is what has carried Philadelphia much of this season and, as a result, the 76ers' top reserve, Bobby Jones, was voted to the team by the Eastern Conference coaches, making him the only player on the all-star squad who is not a starter on his own team.
The most notable absentee from the East team, other than Hayes, is San Antonio's George Gervin, last year's most valuable player who scored 34 points in the East's 144-136 overtime victory at Capital Centre.
Because of realignment, Gervin, who has been the NBA's leading scorer the last three seasons, is now on the West team with Adrian Dantley of Utah (this season's leading scorer), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of Los Angeles, Walter Davis of Phoenix and Paul Westphal of Seattle. Abdul-Jabbar was the only no-show at practice today, but a Laker spokesman said he had difficulty making plane connections and is expected for the game.
West Coach John MacLeod of Phoenix has an interesting team, with his finesse players and scorers voted to the starting five by the fans. His rebounders and musclemen are on the bench. The reserves are led by Truck Robinson and Dennis Johnson of Phoenix, Jack Sikma of Seattle and Moses Malone of Houston. The other West substitutes as Jamaal Wilkes of Los Angeles and Otis Birdsong of Kansas City.
Both Cunningham and MacLeod said they plan to substitute freely, then go to the hottest hands at the end.
"You don't do much coaching in this game," said MacLeod. "It's just an extension of what the players have done all their lives. Even as a coach, you enjoy watching all of that talent out on the floor, but you might even have to coach a bit at the end."