Moses Malone says he has a message for the skeptics who thought he would have trouble adjusting to the Philadelphia 76ers' fast-breaking style of play and to having to share top billing with Julius Erving.
"This is still Doc's team," said Malone. "He's got a job to do and so do I. I don't have to score as much here. They need me to rebound and play defense, so that's what I'm concentrating on."
The Sixers are 2-0, and Malone is averaging 17 points, 16 rebounds and four blocked shots a game.
"I can still score when I want to, though," he said.
Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets, who got Caldwell Jones and a No. 1 draft choice from the 76ers for Malone, are 0-2, as they try to play a faster-paced game. Not only did they change from a deliberate offense and lose Malone, but Robert Reid, the most versatile player last year, retired for religious reasons. The Rockets' new starting lineup consists of Elvin Hayes and Wally Walker at forward, Jones at center and Allen Leavel and 6-foot-9 Joe Bryant at guard.
The trade that sent guard Quinn Buckner to Boston for center-forward Dave Cowens appears to be working well for both teams, each undefeated in two games.
Cowens, who had been retired for two seasons, starts at power forward for the Bucks; Buckner is the third guard for the Celtics behind Tiny Archibald and Danny Ainge, but playing more minutes than the starters. Because of Buckner, the Celtics cut veteran guard Chris Ford and moved two other guards, M.L. Carr and Charles Bradley, to forward.
The Bucks have started Sidney Moncrief at point guard in the first two games and used Brian Winters as the off guard. Coach Don Nelson said he will probably go to rookie Paul Pressey, soon, however, and put Moncrief back at shooting guard and use Winters as a reserve.
Frank Johnson's 36 points against Chicago tied him with Erving for the second-highest total of the opening week. Kelly Tripucka of Detroit was tops with 37 against Indiana Sunday night . . . Former Georgetown guard John Duren, who had two injury-plagued seasons with the Utah Jazz, is the third guard with the Indiana Pacers. But his days could be numbered, if unsigned free agents Don Buse and Johnny Davis re-sign.
Five rookies are starting: Dominique Wilkins at Atlanta, Bill Garnett at Dallas, Clark Kellogg at Indiana, James Worthy at Los Angeles and Lafayette Lever at Portland.