It's true. A team can spend $13.2 million for a player and still be apprehensive about him.
"Sure, I was concerned. There were a lot of questions," Coach Billy Cunningham admitted when asked about the Philadelphia 76ers' acquisition of Moses Malone.
"I had never seen him play a running game," said forward Julius Erving. "He was getting heavy, picking up weight at Houston. I knew he was a great player, but there were so many things he hadn't been doing."
Now, after Malone has gone through a week of two-a-day drills and played in two preseason games, the anxiety has disappeared among the 76ers. The coaching staff and players seem to be content, assured that the 6-foot-10 center will blend in smoothly and strengthen their chances of replacing Los Angeles as champions of the National Basketball Association.
"Basically, we're running the same things we have been," Erving said. "Actually, everything is meshing ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time."
Although Philadelphia opened its exhibition season with victories over Atlantic Division rivals Boston and New Jersey, with all-stars Malone, Erving and Bobby Jones on the front line, the 76ers still are shopping for some insurance.
Bob McAdoo, a free agent who helped Los Angeles beat the 76ers in the championship series last spring, had been negotiating with Philadelphia, but talks ended yesterday without a contract offer being made. Late last night, his agent said McAdoo had agreed to return to the Lakers.
Adjusting to the addition of Malone would seem to be a great deal easier than trying to accommodate McAdoo, who must have the ball to be effective. Malone, who gets a lot of his points from offensive rebounds, says he's just happy to be here.
"I'm not trying to come here and take over for Doc (Erving)," Malone said recently after a strenuous two-hour workout at St. Joseph's College. "I just came here to join a winning team.
"It's fun, more fun," he continued. "You have great talent on this team, a team that wins 50 to 60 games every year. Everyone looks forward to getting on a team like Philadelphia because you can look forward to winning the whole thing."
Winning the whole thing is exactly what Katz had in mind when he offered Malone $2.2 million for each of the next six seasons. Although his team won 58 games last season and defeated defending champion Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, a lot of familiar faces are gone.
Center Darryl Dawkins was traded to New Jersey for a first-round draft choice and $700,000, and center/forward Caldwell Jones was sent to Houston in the Malone deal. Free agent forwards Steve Mix, Ollie Johnson and Mike Bantom were not re-signed.
In place of those veterans, Cunningham has first-round draft choice Mark McNamara, a 7-1 center from California; second-round picks Mitchell Anderson (6-7, from Bradley) and Russ Schoene (6-10, from Tennessee-Chattanooga), plus free agent Mark Iavaroni, a 6-10 forward who last played at Virginia in 1978.
The only experienced front-court reserve is Earl Cureton, who has been disappointing so far.
Iavaroni has been the surprise of camp. A third-round pick by New York, he failed two tests in Knicks' camps and has spent three years playing in Italy. Now he's starting in Bobby Jones' spot.
Although surprised to start, Iavaroni likes to compare himself to Kurt Rambis, the rugged free agent who earned a starting job with the talent-laden Lakers last season. He knows all he has to do is rebound and play defense, and that's what he's concentrating on.
"I'm pleased with Mark," Cunningham said. "I'm not looking for points from him. He's a good defensive player, he has basketball savvy and he's a banger.
"Now we can be considered a physical team," Cunningham continued. "With Moses, Mark and Andrew (Toney), we have some tough, physical players. In the past, we were what you would call a finesse team."
Iavaroni made only one of four shots while playing 31 minutes in his two games, but Cunningham says he'd rather start the rookie and bring Jones off the bench.
"We have a lot of new faces and that makes for a good camp," Erving said. "They've picked up things very quickly and made a very positive impact. There's competition for jobs and that makes everybody play harder."
Erving was in midseason form in last Friday's opener against the Celtics in Providence, R.I., making eight of 11 shots and scoring 20 points in 21 minutes. Malone contributed 22 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes as the 76ers led most of the way in a 105-101 victory.
"It takes time to get used to where these guys' shots are coming from and how they come off the rim," said Malone, who got 15 rebounds in two games.
"Doc and Moses are working out great," Cunningham said. "Both are willing to make sacrifices. They have achieved everything they can individually. The only thing they want to do now is win the championship. They have a common goal -- to make the team better."