The vision the New York Knicks had of a return to the glory days has turned into an early-season nightmare.
The Knicks are 0-7, last in the National Basketball Association in scoring and rebounding. Their opponents are making 52 percent of their shots.
Several major moves had been made. Dave DeBusschere was hired as general manager and Hubie Brown as coach; Maurice Lucas was traded for Truck Robinson and Michael Ray Richardson for Bernard King. The Knicks' fans were promised a team of distinction--one that played defense, played together and was respected, unlike most Knicks teams of recent years.
The only distinction the new Knicks have is being one of two NBA teams without a victory.
"Of course this terrible start bothers me," Brown said. "Anybody with any pride doesn't like to be 0-2, let alone 0-7."
The start is the Knicks' worst ever. Going back to last season, they have lost a team-record 12 in a row.
The Knicks barely won even when it didn't count, going 1-7 in the preseason.
Coming off losses to the New Jersey Nets Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Knicks will play the Washington Bullets at Capital Centre at 8:05 tonight.
The Bullets (3-4) lost by three points to Detroit at Capital Centre Tuesday, and Coach Gene Shue's team also is having some problems.
Forward Spencer Haywood has missed two of the last three games with a strained calf. He practiced yesterday and is expected to play tonight, although he is not at full strength.
"I don't think Spencer will start, but I'll keep my options open," said Shue.
If Haywood doesn't start, Jeff Ruland, Washington's most consistent player, will. Ruland is averaging 19.1 points and 11.4 rebounds a game and has had 17 rebounds in each of the last two games.
Shue also is concerned with his guard play. Frank Johnson, the point guard, averaged 22 points a game the first four games, but only 9.3 the last three. He has averaged 13.3 assists in those three games, however. The other starting guard, rookie Bryan Warrick, has struggled. He has taken 12 shots in the last four games, missing 10, and has had troubles defensively.
"I think I'll stay with Bryan, though," said Shue. "Maybe he'll come along. We'll see."
The back court is also where the Knicks are having their greatest problems. Edmund Sherod, the starting playmaker, is averaging 6.4 points and shooting guard Paul Westphal is averaging seven points. On the bench are Ernie Grunfeld and rookies Trent Tucker and Vince Taylor.
The Knicks' strength is their front line of King (16.6 point average), Robinson (11.3) and center Bill Cartwright (15.1).
The Knicks are said to be looking for help in the back court. They have considered free agents Don Buse and Johnny Davis and recently released Bullet Kevin Porter, all experienced playmakers.
Buse and Davis played for Indiana last season and the Pacers still have the right of first refusal, should another team sign either. The Bullets have no such right with Porter.
The often-volatile Brown has remained relatively calm. "We just haven't been as aggressive as we need to be," he said.