NBA training camps open all across the country Friday. For many players it will be a time of hope and optimism, for others the day will bring the realization that their playing days may be over.
When the Los Angeles Lakers ended last season with a 114-104 victory over Philadelphia in the sixth and final game of the championship series, 64 players became free agents. As of last night, 51 had not signed new contracts.
"There are a lot of good, reliable players out there, but not too many who are going to turn your team around," Bullets General Manager Bob Ferry said. "Before you go out and sign a free agent, you have to be sure he's better than the players you already have.
"Most of the time when you sign a free agent, unless you give him a lot more money than he's worth, his former team will match the offer and it becomes a trade. Then you have to wonder what you'll have to give up."
One of the best players on the market until yesterday was Bernard King, a 23.2 scorer last season at Golden State. The 6-foot-7 forward has signed an offer sheet from New York for $750,000 for five years, plus a $650,000 signing bonus. The Warriors insist they will match any offer and try to make a trade.
Standouts ignored this summer include Johnny Moore, who led the league in assists at San Antonio; Johnny Davis, Indiana's top scorer; Cliff Robinson, a 22-year-old, 6-9 forward with an 18-point career scoring average who doesn't want to go back to Cleveland; Bob McAdoo, a scoring force for Los Angeles in the playoffs, and John Long, who led Detroit with a 21.9 scoring mark.
Robinson, McAdoo and Long are among those reportedly making outrageous salary demands that no one is willing to meet.
Surprisingly, last year's finalists, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have not made any effort to keep their teams intact. The Lakers have not offered contracts to guard Eddie Jordan, forwards Jim Brewer and Mark Landsberger. They are negotiating with McAdoo. The 76ers let forward Steve Mix go to Milwaukee and made no effort to retain Ollie Johnson and Mike Bantom.
Several players, such as Sam Lacey, John Johnson, Jan van Breda Kolff and Randy Smith are in their 30s and may have played their last games. Smith has played in 841 consecutive games and needs just four more to break Johnny Kerr's mark.
The free agents and their status: Mike Bantom, unsigned; Brad Branson, re-signed by Cleveland; Mike Bratz, unsigned; Jim Brewer, unsigned; Don Buse, unsigned; Marty Byrnes, signed by Indiana; Wayne Cooper, traded to Portland; Hollis Copeland, unsigned; Dave Corzine, signed by Chicago; Charlie Criss, signed by Milwaukee; Johnny Davis, unsigned; Larry Demic, unsigned; Coby Dietrick, unsigned; Mike Dunleavy, unsigned; T.R. Dunn, unsigned; Mike Evans, unsigned; Calvin Garrett, unsigned; Ernie Grunfeld, signed by New York; James Hardy, unsigned; Elvin Hayes, re-signed by Houston; Steve Hayes, re-signed by Detroit; Keith Herron, unsigned; Kenny Higgs, unsigned; Armond Hill, unsigned; Cedrick Hordges, unsigned; Dan Issel, re-signed by Denver; Clay Johnson, unsigned; John Johnson, unsigned; Ollie Johnson, unsigned; Edgar Jones, re-signed by Detroit; Major Jones, unsigned; Ed Jordan, unsigned; Jeff Judkins, signed by Portland; Bernard King, signed offer sheet with New York; Sam Lacey, unsigned; John Lambert, unsigned; Mark Landsberger, unsigned; Rock Lee, unsigned; John Long, unsigned; Moses Malone, signed by Philadelphia; Scott May, unsigned; Bob McAdoo, unsigned; Steve Mix, signed offer sheet with Milwaukee; Johnny Moore, unsigned; Lowes Moore, re-signed by Cleveland; Louis Orr, unsigned; Sam Pellom, unsigned; Kevin Restani, unsigned; Cliff Robinson, unsigned; John Roche, unsigned; Phil Smith, unsigned; Randy Smith, unsigned; Robert Smith, unsigned; Ricky Sobers, unsigned; Brian Taylor, unsigned; Carlos Terry, unsigned; Jan van Breda Kolff, unsigned; Kiki Vandeweghe, re-signed by Denver; Michael Wiley, unsigned; Sly Williams, unsigned; Bill Willoughby, unsigned; Rich Yonakor, unsigned; Wally Walker, unsigned.